Sometimes the death of a Hall of Fame player like Stan Musial resonates throughout the baseball world. It happened with Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams, along with many others over the years. He may have been underrated because he played in the same era as DiMaggio and Williams, but there is no doubt about it that Stan was truly “the Man.” While the St. Louis Cardinals and the entire city mourn the passing of Musial, the rest of baseball has to take this as an opportunity to reflect on the history of this great game.
The statue of Musial that was placed outside the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis was the most obvious and well deserved tribute that could be imagined. Nobody represented the city with more pride and class than he did. As I saw images of the statue yesterday on television after word of his death spread, it made me think about those in the history of the Athletics who would be deserving of such an honor.
With a franchise that has a history as rich as that of the Athletics, the selection of candidates goes over a century back to the days in Philadelphia. Names like Connie Mack, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons, Chief Bender, Rube Waddell harken back to some of the most talented teams ever assembled. The 1929-’30 teams that won back to bat World Series titles are regarded as highly as the famous 1927 Yankees in many expert circles.
When the team moved to Oakland after a brief time in Kansas City another dynasty took shape in the early 1970’s as the team won 3 straight World Series Championships in 1972-’74. The likes of Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter defined those teams. The only other franchise to win more than two titles in a row are the New York Yankees, that says a lot about what that team accomplished.
Then of course the last time the A’s reached the pinnacle of the baseball world was in 1989. Those teams were led by the likes of Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, and Dave Stewart. You can probably check McGwire and Canseco off the list immediately due to their involvement with steroids. Rickey Henderson seems like almost a shoe in for a statue considering his ties to Oakland and his obvious accomplishments on the field.
So if the A’s every miraculously get a new stadium, who would get the honor of having themselves immortalized outside? Rickey Henderson as I noted, and Connie Mack has to be a strong candidate considering his longevity and success in the early years. Reggie Jackson would be the obvious choice from the 70’s era, but his outward affinity for the Yankees might be a bit of a turn off. If it were up to me, the first one to get the honor would have to be Rickey, he represents everything that has been great about the Oakland Athletics since 1968, and he couldn’t be more proud of that fact. And he’s also “the greatest of all time.”
Nobody can quite eclipse the standard set by Stan Musial, except for maybe a very select few. His contributions and his class will never be forgotten. Rest in peace Stan Musial.