January 21, 1969: Stan Musial is elected to the Hall of Fame

When Stan Musial was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1969, the question wasn’t whether the three-time National League MVP Award winner would earn his place in Cooperstown. The real question was what the 23 voters who didn’t mark Musial’s name on their ballots were thinking.

In his first year on the ballot, Musial received 317 of 340 votes, good for 93.2% and far eclipsing the 255 votes necessary to reach 75% and earn election to the Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, there was some consternation when it was reported that one of the ballots included votes for the maximum 10 candidates but omitted both Musial and the other 1969 selection, Roy Campanella.[1]

In the following day’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, sports editor Bob Broeg tried to explain how someone could deem Musial unworthy.

It’s this guess that the omissions were more the careless oversight or the intentional malice of honorary BBWAA members. The Hall of Fame ballot, to explain, is accorded to all active writers with 10 or more years’ experience. It also is given to all former 10-year BBWAA card-carrying members no longer in the craft. Some of the honorary members are so far removed from the game that they’re totally disinterested. Others are so old that they’re a bit senile or childish, as one indicated a few years ago when he voted nostalgically for 10 former Philadelphia ballplayers, all of whom could get into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown only one way – by buying a ticket.

… The worst thing that happened to Musial’s chances of winning election to the Hall of Fame by acclamation was just the publicized suggestion that he might be the first unanimous choice.[2]

Later in his column, Broeg wrote:

Of the 23 who didn’t vote for Stan, I feel sorriest for the guy who couldn’t see either Musial or Campanella as he took the pains and trouble to name 10 players he presumably felt deserved election more than those two three-time Most Valuable Player winners. That joker is so mean that he’d give Santa Claus and his reindeer the wrong directions en route to the county orphans’ home.[3]

For his part, Musial said he was happy simply to be elected.

“I wasn’t really concerned about that,” he said. “In this country, the majority rules. I’m just happy to go into the Hall of Fame. That’s the main thing.”[4]

Musial was the top vote-getter of the day. Campanella received 270 votes for 79.4% after missing election by eight votes in 1968.

“We’re all happy Campanella made it too,” Musial said. “He was a great opponent through the years and he loved to play baseball. He’d always be gabbing when I was at the plate, but he didn’t say anything when I was crossing the plate.”[5]

Lou Boudreau fell 37 votes short with 218 and Ralph Kiner had 137. Former Cardinals Enos Slaughter (128), Johnny Mize (116), and Marty Marion (112) were the next highest vote-getters, and Musial’s close friend Red Schoendienst received 65.

In addition to the writers’ ballots, the Veterans Committee elected pitchers Waite Hoyt and Stan Coveleski.

Musial was informed of his election at a press conference in the Busch Stadium dining hall. There, he was joined by Joe Medwick, who had been elected to the Hall of Fame the previous year, as well as Cardinals general manager Bing Devine and his assistant, Jim Toomey. Schoendienst arrived shortly after the announcement.[6]

“I could close my eyes and see myself getting into the Hall last year, but the only difference was that I had to wait 20 years,” Medwick said. “Stan was very kind to me last year when the Cardinals sent him to Cooperstown to represent the club at the induction ceremonies. You can bet your life I’ll be in Cooperstown in July to see him.”[7]

Fifteen months after the Cardinals traded Medwick to the Dodgers in June 1940, Musial made his debut in the St. Louis outfield.

“I never had a man take my place who was better than Stan,” Medwick said.[8]

Shortly before the phone call came from New York, Medwick shook Musial’s hand and said, “I like your chances, Stan.”[9]

Then came the call from Jack Lang, secretary of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He turned the phone over to William D. Eckert, the former U.S. Air Force lieutenant general who had served as commissioner prior to his resignation in December.

“I’m proud to be the first to tell you that you have been elected by an overwhelming majority to the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Eckert said. “Your record is most distinguished. You are a credit to your country and to baseball. I congratulate you on receiving baseball’s highest honor.”[10]

Musial earned that honor with a career that spanned 22 seasons from September 1941 until the conclusion of the 1963 season (Musial missed the 1945 season due to military service). Over the course of more than 3,000 games, Musial totaled 3,630 hits, 475 home runs, and 1,951 RBIs. Included in his .331 career batting average were seven National League batting titles, including consecutive crowns in 1950, 1951, and 1952.

Along the way, he won three MVP trophies in 1943, 1946, and 1948 and placed second in the MVP voting in 1949, 1950, 1951, and 1957. He was selected for 24 all-star games (the league used to play two all-star games per year) and led the Cardinals to World Series championships in 1942, 1944, and 1946.

Musial set seven major league records and tied 12. His major-league marks included 6,134 total bases, 1,377 extra-base hits, five home runs in a double-header, and 21 seasons with 100 or more games played.[11]

In looking back at his career, he ranked his top five achievements:

  1. Attaining his 3,000th career hit
  2. Hitting five home runs in a single double-header
  3. Breaking the National League career hits record
  4. Breaking the National League career RBIs record
  5. Setting the major-league record for total bases with 6,134[12]

Musial retired following the 1963 season at age 42. Though he earned MVP votes in both 1960 and 1962, he said that the final years of his career were a struggle.

“The ball seemed to be getting smaller and the pitchers were throwing harder and I couldn’t concentrate on every pitch anymore,” Musial said. “A lot of athletes were wearing glasses and I figured that if glasses would help, why not use them? I was very disappointed when the doc said I didn’t need to wear them. And last spring when I took a physical examination, the doctor said I had the best eyes around.”[13]

After the press conference, Musial and his son Dick hosted approximately 150 guests for a hastily arranged party at Musial & Biggie’s restaurant.[14]

Six months later, on July 28, 1969, Musial was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame. Throughout the program, a light rain fell on the ceremony, but as Musial stood to accept his plaque from new baseball commissioner Bowie Kuh, the clouds parted and the sun shone down on the stage.[15]

“Of all the thrills I experienced – from that first hit off Jim Tobin to the last two off Jim Maloney my last two times up at bat in 1963 – I still say the greatest was in just pulling on the uniform and going out there to compete,” Musial said.[16]

After thanking family and friends, he concluded his remarks by saying, “I came up in 1941 to play against men who had starred as early as the mid-‘20s and I stayed through 1963, playing against men who’ll star into the ‘70s and maybe even until 1980. So I feel qualified, I hope you’ll agree, to say that baseball was a great game … baseball is a great game … and baseball will be a great game.”[17]


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[1] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[2] Bob Broeg, “Those 23 Dropouts Can All Skiddoo,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 22, 1969.

[3] Bob Broeg, “Those 23 Dropouts Can All Skiddoo,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 22, 1969.

[4] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[5] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[6] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[7] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[8] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[9] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[10] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[11] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[12] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[13] Neal Russo, “Musial, Campanella in Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 1969.

[14] Neal Russo, “Dick Musial Gives Pop A Lift, Pops the Cork,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 22, 1969.

[15] Bob Broeg, “Stan: ‘I Was Glad To Play,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 1969.

[16] Bob Broeg, “Stan: ‘I Was Glad To Play,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 1969.

[17] Bob Broeg, “Stan: ‘I Was Glad To Play,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 1969.

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I was fortunate to see Stan hit for the cycle – the one time in his career! Against the Dodgers at Ebbets Field in 1949 in a 14-1 rout! Years later he was thrilled when I told him!!

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