Stan Musial

How Stan Musial dominated and won his third MVP in 1948

Just how incredible was Stan Musial’s 1948 season?

The 27-year-old from Donora, Pennsylvania, led the league in batting average (.376), hits (230), doubles (46), triples (18), RBIs (131), on-base percentage (.450), slugging percentage (.702), OPS (1.152), and total bases (429). With 39 home runs, Musial was one homer shy of tying the Pirates’ Ralph Kiner and the Giants’ Johnny Mize for the league lead.

He recorded hits in 121 of his 155 games that season, including four games in which he posted five hits apiece. Only Ty Cobb (1922), Tony Gwynn (1993), and Ichiro Suzuki (2004) had as many five-hit games in a single season.[1]

In five games that season, Musial finished with four RBIs. Four of those games came against the Reds, against whom he batted .379 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 87 at-bats. Incredibly, his batting average against the Reds was relatively pedestrian compared to his success against the Braves (.443 in 88 at-bats).

For the season, he hit .437 with runners in scoring position and .426 with runners in scoring position and two outs. He was particularly effective against left-handed pitchers, against whom he hit .416, and he batted .415 on the road.

On December 2, 1948, the Baseball Writers Association of America recognized Musial’s outstanding season with his third career National League MVP Award, making him the first player in National League history to win the award three times. With his latest accolade, Musial had won the MVP Award three times in his first six full seasons in the majors (he missed the 1945 campaign due to his service in the Navy).

“To the writers this year there was no more question about Musial’s superiority in the National League than there had been earlier about the naming of Shortstop Lou Boudreau the most valuable player in the American League,” wrote the St. Louis Star and Times. “Stan’s record, like Boudreau’s, simply left no room for argument.”[2]

Musial received 18 of 24 first-place votes. With four second-place votes and one third- and fourth-place ballot apiece, Musial received 303 total points.

“I heard about it yesterday on my way down to Rolla to hunt some quail,” Musial said. “I thought I had a pretty good chance, because I had a pretty good year, but it looked to me like Johnny Sain would probably get it. But I’m very happy about the award – it’s quite a distinction for any player.”[3]

Sain, who led the league with 24 wins to go along with a 2.60 ERA over 314 2/3 innings, placed second with five first-place votes and 223 points. Braves shortstop Al Dark, who hit .322 for the season, received one first-place vote and finished third in the balloting with 174 points.

“Musial, of course, was the batting star of the season,” wrote Hy Hurwitz of the Boston Globe. “Doubtless the fact that Stan was an everyday performer influenced a majority of the voters, although the fans in this area would have deluged the voting machines with Sain selections if given an opportunity.”[4]

Behind Giants slugger Sid Gordon, who clobbered 30 homers and drove in 107 RBIs, Cardinals pitcher Harry Brecheen placed fifth. A left-hander from Broken Bow, Oklahoma, Brecheen went 20-7 and led the league with a 2.24 ERA and 149 strikeouts. Cardinals outfielder Enos Slaughter tied with Kiner for seventh place after batting .321 with 11 homers and 90 RBIs.

In the award’s 18-year history, Cardinals had taken home the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Plaque eight times. In addition to Musial’s three, Cardinals MVP winners included Frankie Frisch in 1931, Dizzy Dean in 1934, Joe Medwick in 1937, Mort Cooper in 1942, and Marty Marion in 1944.

Though Musial remained an elite player for more than a decade, 1948 proved the final MVP recognition of his career. In 1949, 1950, and 1951 he placed second in the voting. From 1952 through 1956, he placed in the top 10, then placed second again in 1957.

By the time he retired following the 1963 season, Musial had collected 3,630 hits, won seven batting titles, and earned 24 all-star game selections. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1969.

Enjoy this post? Find similar stories listed by decade or by player.

[1] Craig Muder, “Musial’s historic 1948 season nets him third NL MVP,” National Baseball Hall of Fame,

[2] “Musial Named Most Valuable N.L. Player For Third Time,” St. Louis Star and Times, December 2, 1948.

[3] “Stan ‘Surprised,’” St. Louis Star and Times, December 2, 1948.

[4] Hy Hurwitz, “Musial ‘Most Valuable’ in National League; Sain, Dark Runners-Up,” Boston Globe, December 2, 1948.

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