SI Vault
 
BENCHING OF A LEGEND
Roger Kahn
September 12, 1960
The prideful struggle of an aging Stan Musial to keep on playing ball has been a painful experience for everyone
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 12, 1960

Benching Of A Legend

The prideful struggle of an aging Stan Musial to keep on playing ball has been a painful experience for everyone

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

On June 19, after Musial had spent three weeks in the dugout, Hemus said before a double-header: "Maybe I'll use you in the second game." The Cards won the first, and in the clubhouse afterward Hemus announced simply: "Same lineup."

Later Musial, deadly serious, approached him. "There's one thing you shouldn't ever try to do, Solly," he said. "Don't ever try to kid me along."

Hemus said nothing. There wasn't anything to say.

"He caught me," the manager remarked over his beer. "He knew me well and he'd caught me. I was wrong to kid him, but I did."

Hemus paused and gathered his thoughts. "I spent a lot of time, a lot of nights worrying about this thing," he said finally, "and I got to remember the coffin. What does he want to take with him to his coffin? Records. Something that people will remember. As many records as he can. Now what do I want to take to my coffin? Honesty. I always wanted to manage, and I want to know I managed honestly. I was right to bench him when I did, but I was wrong to kid him, and I know it makes me look bad to admit it, but I was wrong."

Hemus never evolved a plan to work Musial back into the lineup. While benched, Musial pinch hit nine times but batted safely only once. There was no indication he was going to hit any better than he had.

On June 16 Bob Nieman, who had been hitting well, pulled a muscle, and suddenly Hemus needed a left fielder. He alternated Walt Moryn and Rookie John Glenn, but neither hit at all. Then he turned to Musial, hoping for batting but not really confident that he would get it.

What would have happened to Musial if Nieman hadn't been hurt, or if Glenn or Moryn had started slugging? Again Hemus speaks with absolute frankness: "I really don't know," he says. "I just got no idea."

On June 24 Musial started in left field against the Phils and got one hit in four times at bat. On June 25 he was hitless, but on June 26 he started again and that day took off on a devastating hitting tear (15 games, .500 batting average) that surprised everyone, except, possibly, himself.

What brought Musial back to batting form? "Well, one reason I didn't quit," he says, "is that they weren't throwing the fast one by me. Last year they were giving me changes, and I wasn't going good, so I kept swinging too hard. I figured that one out. Now I'm going to left real good on lots of the change-ups."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5