Schuster: Stan Musial’s 1949 batting slump

From SABR member Joe Schuster at The National Pastime Museum on May 7, 2018:

With its 162-game schedule, the Major League baseball season is perhaps the most grueling of any major professional sport in North America. (This was true even prior to 1961 in the American League and 1962 in the National League when teams mostly played 154 games.) It’s roughly double the length of the NHL and NBA seasons and 10 times more games than NFL teams play—making the baseball season “a marathon, not a sprint,” as the saying goes.

As evidence, consider how often a rookie will light up ballparks for a few weeks in April, tempting fans to picture him on the podium at Cooperstown decades down the road, only for the rookie to fade and perhaps vanish as May passes into June and June into July. Likewise, we see players who, early on, seem as if they will have what will amount to a lost season, only to find some late spark that leads to glory.

Rivals Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial were clear examples of this in their chase for the 1949 National League batting crown, a title that Robinson won with his .342 average, while Musial finished at .338. The two also ranked first and second in voting for the NL MVP, which Robinson collected—the only MVP of his career.

However, early on, their performances were anything but stellar. As April closed, Robinson’s average was a meager .188, with Musial’s—at .243—only a tad better.

For each player, early struggles arose for different reasons. In this essay, we will take a look at Musial’s season; a subsequent essay in this series will look at Robinson’s.

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Originally published: May 7, 2018. Last Updated: May 7, 2018.