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Musial has also changed the unique stance that was his trademark. Remember the old crouch? Now Musial stands closer to the plate, a change that gives him better control of fast balls over the outside corner. He still crouches, but less markedly. His stance remains unusual, but it is no longer radical.
He always concentrated when he hit, but Musial's concentration seems to have deepened further. It must make up for what age has taken from his reflexes, and he now plots his swings with great care.
Nobody around the league has an easy explanation of Musial's great hitting in July, because there is no easy way to explain great hitting by a washed-up 39-year-old ballplayer. "Hell," Musial himself says, "just use that old line of Slaughter's. Just say I never been away."
One night before the Cardinals played the Braves, Charley Dressen, a man who has more explanations than newspapermen have questions, agreed to study the revivified Musial and report on what he saw. Musial lined one of Bob Buhl's inside change-ups high into the right-field bleachers for a home run.
"Ah," Dressen said later. "I know how to pitch to him."
"Same as always," Dressen said. "Change-ups."
"But he hit the home run off the change."
"Wrong kinda change," Dressen said, cutting off further conversation.
Fred Hutchinson, who manages Cincinnati and once managed the Cardinals, took up the Musial question several days later. "What can you say?" Hutchinson asked, shrugging. "He's hitting like hell, that's all. He's hitting all kinds of pitches, just like he used to."