Stan "The Man" Musial poses in an undated photo from...

Stan "The Man" Musial poses in an undated photo from 1952. Credit: AP, 1952

Stan Musial, the graceful, gentlemanly Hall of Fame outfielder-first baseman widely considered the best player in St. Louis Cardinals history, died Saturday. He was 92.

"Stan the Man" was so revered in St. Louis that he has two statues outside Busch Stadium -- one just wouldn't do him justice. Musial won seven National League batting titles, was a three-time MVP and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series titles in the 1940s.

The Cardinals announced his death in a news release and said he died Saturday nightat his home in Ladue, Mo., surrounded by family. The team said his son-in-law, Dave Edmonds, informed the club of Musial's death.

"We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family," team chairman William DeWitt Jr. said. "Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball."

Musial was baseball's first $100,000-a-year player. After a mediocre 1959 season, he requested and received a pay cut to $80,000, then turned in four more productive seasons. He finished his 22 years in the majors -- all with the Cardinals -- with a .331 career batting average, 3,630 hits (fourth all-time) and 475 home runs.

The only year Musial missed with the Cardinals was 1945, when he was in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

In both his first and last major-league games -- Sept. 17, 1941, and Sept. 29, 1963 -- he stroked a pair of hits from his unique, coiled lefthanded batting stance that Hall of Fame pitcher Ted Lyons likened to "a kid peeking around a corner to see if the cops were coming."

He never struck out as many as 50 times in a season. Only Willie Mays had as many All-Star appearances as Musial -- 24 -- including the four seasons (1959-1962) when there were two such games. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969.

Joe Garagiola, his old teammate, said Musial "could hit .300 with a fountain pen."

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, when asked how good he was, said, "He was good enough to take your breath away."

Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe once joked about how to handle Musial: "I throw him four wide ones and then I try to pick him off first base."

But just as prominent in the Musial legacy as his playing skill was his role as a baseball ambassador, forever accommodating to fans and universally respected by fellow players. It was the partisans of a keen Cardinals rival -- the Dodgers -- who bestowed on Musial his venerable nickname.

He was known for his rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his harmonica, for his quiet welcoming gestures to the first black players who crossed baseball's color line in the late 1940s, for never having turned down an autograph request. At the suggestion of a pal, actor John Wayne, he carried around autographed cards of himself to give away.

Inscribed on one of the Musial statues are words attributed to Ford Frick, who served as NL president and commissioner of baseball during Musial's career: "Here stands baseball's warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."

"Maybe one reason I'm so cheerful," Musial once said, "is that for more than 20 years, I've had an unbeatable combination going for me -- getting paid, often a lot, to do the thing I love the most."

Musial's most uttered expression, in almost any setting, was "wonderful, wonderful."

Stanislaw Franciszek Musial was born Nov. 21, 1920 in Donora, Pa., the fifth child of Lukasz and Mary Musial. His father was a Polish immigrant.

Signed as a pitcher when he was 17, Musial was converted to the outfield just before his big-league debut in 1941 and first appeared on an MVP ballot the next season, at 21.

Shy and humble, Musial wrote in his autobiography that he "was a poor boy who struck it rich in many ways through the wonders of baseball. I learned to hit with a broomstick and a ball of tape and I could always get that bat on the ball."

After his playing days, he served as the Cardinals' general manager and club president and remained a sort of man-next-door celebrity in St. Louis, where he owned a popular restaurant for years and made regular speaking appearances.

In February 2011, President Barack Obama bestowed upon Musial the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, which recognizes individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security of national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

The Cardinals said Musial is survived by his four children, Richard, Gerry, Janet and Jean, as well as 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Musial's wife died in May 2012.

Funeral arrangements had not yet been finalized, the Cardinals said. The team set up a memorial site around one of Musial's statues at Busch Stadium.

With AP

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