George Vecsey includes lots of infor you didn't know about Stan "The Man." For instance, the Brooklyn Dodgers' fans gave him that nickname.
My earliest memory as a baseball fan was when the Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series. From then on I was a baseball card collector. Virtually every cent I got picking rocks, driving tractor, and doing other chores for neighbors on the farm went to Topps Bubble Gum company. Usually I'd spend a couple of bucks for one player I didn't already have. They must not have printed very many of Stan "The Man" Musial because I never did get his card.
Stan the Man would not be too happy with George Vecsey because this biography, although mostly celebratory, includes a few warts. Another one of his biographers got the cold shoulder for mentioning that Stan's wife Lil didn't like baseball as a young wife.
Vecsey includes some information I didn't know. First off, Stan almost didn't make it into the majors at all. For one of the all-time greats he spent a lot of time in the minors. He started as a pitcher until hurting his arm diving for a ball. Luckily some of his managers thought Stan could make it as a hitter, especially Dickie Kerr. If you're a baseball aficionado like I am, you'll recognize that name. Dickie Kerr won two games in the infamous Black Sox World Series. Anyway, when Stan started to hit he credited Kerr with sticking with him. Eventually Stan and Lil would pay him back by buying the Kerr family a house, although they kept the title and paid the taxes.
There's also a lot of family stuff in the book that Stan wouldn't appreciate. His dad, a Polish immigrant only five feet tall, worked in a steel mill in Donora, Pennsylvania. That's where the most shocking event in the book occurred. Over 20 people died in only two days when a poisonous smog settled over the valley, trapped by cold air above. Stan would blame the smog for his dad's eventual death.
Stan could also hold a grudge. He owned a bowling alley in St. Louis with his pal Joe Garagiola, the famous announcer who had been a catcher with the team. After Stan retired, his son and his former partner's son took over Stan's restaurant and the bowling alley, borrowing money from the bowling alley when they ran the restaurant into the ground. The Garagiola's sued, earning Stan's disdain. When Gariagiola was elected to the announcers Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, Stan did not show up, and he usually went every year.
Some of the above sounds like Stan was not a very likable guy, but he was one of the most well-liked players in the majors, donating his time to charity and signing autographs for kids long after the other players had gone home.
Vescey also claims Stan is the most under appreciated of the great hitters of the forties and fifties, DiMaggio, Williams, and Musial. He didn't hit for power like the other two, at least not at first. He only weighed 170, but eventually he hit almost five hundred homers when he learned to pull the ball. The Brooklyn Dodgers even elected him to their Hall of Fame since he killed them nearly every time they played the Cardinals, giving him his famous moniker, Stan the Man.
This is an excellent book for a baseball fan like me. Not so sure about non-baseball fans. It includes a lot more personal information than most baseball bios. I haven't read one with more since Jim Bouton's BALL FOUR.
Dave Schwinghammer's novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available, used and new, at Amazon.com.