Stan Musial

41-year-old Stan Musial hits three homers: July 8, 1962

Even at age 41, Stan Musial had the ability to take over a ballgame. On July 8, 1962, four months prior to his 42nd birthday, Musial hit three home runs to lead the Cardinals to a 15-1 win over the Mets and become the oldest player to hit three homers in a game.

With the game-winning home run in the eighth inning of the Cardinals’ 3-2 win over the Mets the night before, Musial’s three homers meant he had powered the ball over the wall in four consecutive at-bats before he struck out in his final at-bat of the day. The last time Musial slugged three homers in a game came eight years earlier, in 1954, when he hit five home runs in a doubleheader against the Giants.

With a 46-38 record, St. Louis entered the game tied for fourth place in the National League, 9 ½ games behind the league-leading Giants. The Cardinals hadn’t done themselves any favors in dropping the first two games in their four-game series against the last-place Mets, who were just 23-58 on their way to a 40-120-1 season. As Dick Young of the New York Daily News wrote, “Trouble with the Amazin’ Mets isn’t that they have old ballplayers; it’s that they don’t have any old ballplayers named Musial.”[1]

The fireworks began in the first inning as first baseman Bill White and Musial hit back-to-back home runs off Mets starter Jay Hook to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead. In the third inning, starting pitcher Bob Gibson launched a solo home run and third baseman Ken Boyer drove in a run with an infield single.

In the fourth, the Cardinals broke the game open. Two Mets errors allowed the Cardinals to extend their lead to 6-0 before White hit an RBI double into the left-field gap. Musial followed with a two-run blast that landed in the upper deck in right field to make the score 9-0.

Musial led off the seventh inning with another home run to right field, this time off Willard Hunter. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bob Broeg noted that the home run on a high and inside fastball reflected Musial’s longtime strategy regarding hitting in the Polo Grounds: “Don’t let an inside pitch go by if you’ve got quick hands.”[2]

An inning later, rookie Fred Whitfield hit a two-run homer off Mets reliever Bob Miller to make it 12-0. With an opportunity to set a record with a fifth consecutive homer in the eighth, Musial struck out but reached first base safely on a wild pitch. Cardinals manager Johnny Keane replaced Musial with a pinch-runner and the St. Louis star received a standing ovation from the New York fans as he returned to the dugout.[3]

“The last time up, I was going for the fence,” he admitted. “You can’t swing for home runs. I came here in a slump, tried to perk the ball the first night, and then just tried for base hits. Look what happened.”[4]

Gibson and Whitfield added RBI singles in the ninth and Julio Gotay scored on New York’s fourth error of the game. Felix Mantilla led off the Mets’ half of the ninth inning with a triple into the left-field gap and Joe Christopher grounded out to second base to spoil Gibson’s bid for a complete-game shutout.

Nonetheless, with the 15-1 final score, Gibson earned his 10th win of the season, holding the Mets to just three hits as he worked around six walks. He struck out four.

After the game, Musial posed for photos with his wife Lil and daughter Janet, who were accompanying him to New York and Washington, D.C. for the all-star game. Lil and Janet were only at the game after Lil turned down an offer to take a boat ride around Manhattan Island.[5] Musial also took time to sign autographs for a Little League team that came down to the field.[6]

With his 3-for-4 performance, Musial entered the all-star break with a .333 average and 12 home runs. He finished the year with a .330 average, 19 homers, and 82 RBIs.

He played one more season in 1963, earning his 24th and final all-star appearance before retiring at the age of 42. In 1969, Musial was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Enjoy this post? Get Cardinals history delivered straight to your inbox!

[1] Dick Young, “Stan’s 3 HRs Kill Mets, 15-1,” New York Daily News, July 9, 1962.

[2] Bob Broeg, “Musial Still The Man – Hits 4 Straight Homers in Two Games,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1962.

[3] Dick Young, “Stan’s 3 HRs Kill Mets, 15-1,” New York Daily News, July 9, 1962.

[4] Bob Broeg, “Musial Still The Man – Hits 4 Straight Homers in Two Games,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1962.

[5] Bob Broeg, “Musial Still The Man – Hits 4 Straight Homers in Two Games,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1962.

[6] Jack Herman, “Stan Belts 3 Homers In 15-1 Romp,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 9, 1962.