March 4, 1948: Stan Musial ends brief spring training holdout

In the days before free agency, the reserve clause gave baseball teams all the leverage in determining each player’s salary. Even the greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan Musial, wasn’t immune.

On March 4, 1948, Musial ended a brief spring training holdout in which the two-time National League MVP sought a $5,000 raise from his $31,000 salary the previous season.

It wasn’t Musial’s first spring training holdout seeking better pay. In 1943, after Musial hit .315 with 10 homers and 72 RBIs in his first full major-league season, the 22-year-old Musial was offered a $5,500 contract. He returned the letter unsigned, and wrote owner Sam Breadon a letter asking for $10,000, noting that with Terry Moore and Enos Slaughter each serving in the military, he would have to play “even harder.”[1]

Breadon capitalized on what Musial soon realized was a mistake, writing back, “You will have no more to do this year than you did last year. I thought you were the kind of ball player that gave all you had in every game. Of course, we expect the same in 1943 if you sign a contract with us.”[2]

Musial lowered his request to $7,500 and ultimately signed a contract for $6,250.[3]

In 1947, Musial, who had just won the 1946 MVP Award in his first year back from military service, believed he was due for a significant raise. Instead, Breadon offered him a contract for $21,000. When Musial pointed out that this was only $2,500 more than his 1946 salary, Breadon told him that it actually was a $7,500 raise, because the $5,000 that Musial received last season was a gift instead of salary.[4]

“Mr. Breadon, I don’t care what you call it,” Musial said, “but I know two things—I had to sign a new contract and I had to pay income tax on the money.”[5]

Musial ultimately signed for $31,000 for the 1947 season.[6] That year he appeared in the all-star game for the fourth time in his career, but also battled appendicitis. Despite his painful condition, he hit .312 with 19 homers, 95 RBIs, and 113 runs scored. When Musial received his contract for 1948, he was offered the same $31,000 salary he had earned the year before.

“I don’t think I am unreasonable in requesting an increase,” Musial said. “I firmly believe my work last year, considering the handicaps, warranted it. … My doctors advised me to undergo an operation for the removal of the appendix. They warned me that failure to do so might cause me serious trouble. Yet I held off until the end of the season. I knew if I were operated upon, I would be lost to the team for the rest of the campaign.”[7]

Musial had an appendectomy after the season ended.[8]

In the March 3 issue of the St. Louis Star and Times, the normally reserved Musial expressed his frustration, particularly with owner and president Robert Hannegan.

“I can’t understand Mr. Hannegan or his methods,” Musial said. “I returned the unsigned contract two weeks ago with a note advising him how much I wanted. Since then, he’s spoken to me several times but never has he invited me to meet him to discuss our problem. He hasn’t budged an inch. I am willing to talk things over with him, but the next move must be his. He has my address and can get me at home every day.”[9]

That evening, Musial met with manager Eddie Dyer, then spoke with Hannegan the following morning at the Vinoy Park Hotel.[10] The meeting with Hannegan lasted just 15 minutes, and both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that Musial would accept the original $31,000 salary offer. The Star and Times reported that Musial agreed to his 1948 salary with the understanding that he would receive a raise in 1949 if he had a good season.[11]

After reaching an agreement, Musial and Hannegan each went to the ballpark to share the news with the press. However, just a few moments before they arrived, Dyer was struck in his right temple by a line drive off the bat of catcher Vernon Rapp. The Post-Dispatch and Star and Times each said he was knocked unconscious by the blow, though the Globe-Democrat said he never lost consciousness. Dyer lay where he fell for “some time” before he was assisted off the field and into the clubhouse. An ambulance took him to Mound Park Hospital, where x-rays showed no fracture.[12]

While Dyer was in the hospital, Musial participated in his first workout of the spring that afternoon. As the Globe-Democrat noted, he “quickly indicated he is in fine physical condition by lashing the ball each time he went to the plate during the batting practice.”[13]

It was just the beginning. Musial responded with arguably the best season of his career in 1948, batting .376/.450/.702 with 39 homers and 131 RBIs. He finished one home run shy of the triple crown, and he also led the league in runs scored (135), hits (230), doubles (46), and triples (18).

At the all-star break, Musial was batting .403 and Hannegan rewarded him by increasing his salary to $36,000.[14] At season’s end, Musial was named the National League MVP for the third and final time in his Hall of Fame career.


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[1] James N. Giglio (2001), Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man, University of Missouri Press, Page 82.

[2] James N. Giglio (2001), Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man, University of Missouri Press, Page 82.

[3] James N. Giglio (2001), Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man, University of Missouri Press, Page 82.

[4] George Vecsey (2011), Stan Musial, ESPN, Amazon Kindle Edition, Location 2394.

[5] George Vecsey (2011), Stan Musial, ESPN, Amazon Kindle Edition, Location 2394.

[6] George Vecsey (2011), Stan Musial, ESPN, Amazon Kindle Edition, Location 2394.

[7] Joe Reichler, “Musial Wants $5,000 Raise From Cards,” St. Louis Star and Times, March 3, 1948.

[8] J. Roy Stockton, “Musial Signs Cardinal Contract at Conference With Hannegan,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 4, 1948.

[9] Joe Reichler, “Musial Wants $5,000 Raise From Cards,” St. Louis Star and Times, March 3, 1948.

[10] Martin J. Haley, “Dyer Felled by Line Drive; Musial Signs,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 5, 1948.

[11] “Brecheen In Cardinal Camp, Ready To End Holdout Siege,” St. Louis Star and Times, March 5, 1948.

[12] Martin J. Haley, “Dyer Felled by Line Drive; Musial Signs,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 5, 1948.

[13] Martin J. Haley, “Dyer Felled by Line Drive; Musial Signs,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 5, 1948.

[14] Brian Walton, “Stan the Man Had Salary Disputes, Too,” Cardinals Dugout, https://247sports.com/mlb/cardinals/Article/Stan-the-Man-Had-Salary-Disputes-Too-104785121/.

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