Stan Musial’s greatness undiminished by time

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Stan Musial’s name doesn’t dot the record books anywhere near as frequently as those of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Still, for consistent greatness, perhaps no one matched Stan the Man, who passed away Saturday at age 92.

– Excluding his one-year absence due to military service in 1945, Musial, who spent his entire career with the Cardinals, hit .310 or better every year from 1942 to 1958. That’s age 21 to age 37. He qualified for the NL batting title all 16 of those seasons, finishing first seven times, second twice, third four times, fourth twice and fifth once. He also finished third in 1962 at age 41.

– In addition to his seven batting titles, he led the NL in OBP six times, in slugging six times and in OPS seven times.

– He led the league in runs scored five times, hits six times, doubles eight times, triples five times, RBI twice, walks once and games played five times.

– He did all this while never striking out more than 46 times in a season. He finished his career with 1,599 walks and just 696 strikeouts.

– Musial played in 24 All-Star Games (in 20 seasons), tying Willie Mays for the most of all-time.

– Even 50 years after his retirement, Musial ranks 2nd all-time in total bases (6,134), 4th all-time in hits (3.630), 30th in average (.331), 22nd in OBP (.417), 19th in slugging (.559), 13th in OPS (.976), ninth in runs (1,959), sixth in RBI (1,951), third in doubles (725), 19th in triples (177), 28th in homers (475) and 13th in walks.

– Advanced stats: Musial ranks 12th all-time in Baseball-Reference’s WAR, ninth among position players. He’s third in runs created (2,562) and his OPS+ of 159 ranks 15th.

– Only Barry Bonds, with seven MVPs, has been more successful in the MVP balloting. Musial is one of eight players with three MVPs, and he has four second-place finishes to go along with them.

– Musial wasn’t particularly productive in the World Series, but his Cardinals teams won three of the four in which he played. He hit .256/.347/.395 with one homers and eight RBI in his 23 postseason games.

Musial ended up playing 21 full seasons, plus his 12 games as a 20-year-old in 1941. Never once did he finish with an OPS+ under 100. He ranked among the NL’s best hitters at both 21 and 41. He hit .300 18 times. Only Aaron, with 15, had more seasons with 300 total bases than Musial’s 13. Only Bonds, Ruth and Ted Williams, with 18 each, had more seasons with .900 OPSs than Musial’s 17.

Musial may have missed some milestones in finishing with 475 homers and 1,951 RBI, but his status as one of baseball’s very best hitters is cemented. The awesome nickname probably doesn’t hurt.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.