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Baseball great Stan 'The Man' Musial dies at 92

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 11:40 AM EST, Thu March 7, 2013
Photo portrait of Stan Musial in the 1960s.
Photo portrait of Stan Musial in the 1960s.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Musial played 22 years in the Major League, all with the St. Louis Cardinals
  • He retired in 1963 as, statistically, one of the best hitters in baseball history
  • He died Saturday evening of natural causes, his grandson says
  • Baseball commissioner, players, fans recall Musial as a great athlete and man

(CNN) -- He was simply "The Man."

Stanley Frank Musial made a name for himself as one of baseball's best hitters of all time on the field, as well as one of its greatest, most dignified ambassadors off it.

And now "Stan the Man" is gone. Musial died at his Ladue, Missouri, home surrounded by family, the Cardinals said in a statement. According to a post on his Twitter page, which is maintained by his grandson Brian Musial Schwarze, Musial died at 5:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m. ET) Saturday of natural causes.

He was 92.

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

The Pennsylvania-born Musial transitioned from a lackluster pitcher to a stellar slugging outfielder, according to his biography on the National Baseball Hall of Fame's website.

The left-hander had a batting average above .300 17 times during his 22-year career -- all played with St. Louis -- and earned three National League Most Valuable Player awards as well as three World Series titles. The only blip came in 1945, in the thick of World War II, when he left baseball to join the U.S. Navy.

Stan Musial waves to fans during the 2012 National League Championship Series.
Stan Musial waves to fans during the 2012 National League Championship Series.

After the 1963 season, Musial retired with a .331 career batting average and as the National League's career leader in RBI, games played, runs scored, hits and doubles. He has since been surpassed in some of those categories, but he still ranks fourth in baseball history in total hits, behind only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron.

Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver dead

He also stood out for his grace and sportsmanship -- having never been ejected once by an umpire. In his retirement ceremony, then-Major League Commissioner Ford Frick referred to Musial as "baseball's perfect warrior, baseball's perfect knight."

In 1969, Musial was elected on his first try into the Hall of Fame, calling it "the greatest honor of the many that have been bestowed upon me."

During and after his playing career, Musial developed a special relationship with the St. Louis fan base, who knew him simply as "Stan the Man."

A bronze statue of him stands outside Busch Stadium, which is located in Musial Plaza along Stan Musial Drive.

He continued with the organization for more than 25 years after his playing days ended, serving as vice president and general manager.

And Musial was active in the community, contributing to causes such as the USO, the Senior Olympics, the Boy Scouts and Covenant House.

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"I have no hesitation to say that St. Louis is a great place in which to live and work," he said in his Hall of Fame induction speech. "We love St. Louis."

His fans returned the favor, revering him for his play as well as his character and commitment to the area.

"Cardinal Nation will never be the same. Rest in peace Stan 'The Man' Musial, the best Cardinal there ever was," wrote one woman, by the name of Elise, on Twitter.

Musial also stood tall outside eastern Missouri. He served between 1964 and 1967 as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

In 2011, President Barack Obama bestowed upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

"Stan matched his hustle with humility," Obama said then. "Stan remains, to this day, an icon, untarnished; a beloved pillar of the community; a gentleman you'd want your kids to emulate."

Lillian, Musial's wife of 71 years, died last May -- a longlasting marriage that some people, online, called as admirable as anything that happened on the diamond.

Stan Musial's passing spurred an outpouring of condolences and praise. Commissioner Bud Selig described him as "a Hall of Famer in every sense" and "a true gentleman," former pitcher Curt Schilling called his life "a clinic in respect, integrity and honor," and current Cardinal Matt Holliday said it was "an honor to the same uniform."

The messages from fans were no less heartfelt.

Wrote Jason Lukehart, on Twitter: "In a week that's shown the dangers deifying athletes, Stan Musial's death reminds me that once in a great while, there's a man worthy of it."

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