Sunday, January 20, 2013

'Last 44'er' Babe Martin Comments on Death of Stan Musial

One ballplayer left from St. Louis' 'storybook' baseball year

Stan Musial
Babe Martin

"Stan was one of the finest people I have ever met," says Babe Martin, of the St. Louis Browns, who with the death of Stan Musial becomes the last surviving player from either of the two St. Louis teams that won their respective league pennants in 1944.  "Stan is my right fielder on my all-time greatest team, with [Joe] DiMaggio in center and Teddy [former teammate Williams] in left".

Martin, of Ballwin, Missouri, was reached today by telephone from Tucson, Arizona.  He will be 93-years old in March.

Martin made a key start in left field during the last week of the 1944 season, his first game ever in the majors.  The Browns won the game, 3-0 over the Boston Red Sox, and the game propelled St. Louis into a first-place tie with Detroit.  Martin, in debut, was stellar. Batting fifth in the order, he was two for three, with a double and an RBI, and registering a put out.  He would finish his shortened season with a .750 batting average and an American League championship trophy.

Martin was ineligible for the World Series, but watched in uniform from the bench as his team took on Musial and the Cardinals.  The Cardinals would win the only "streetcar series" in St. Louis history, four games to two.

Martin, the last living St. Louis pro ballplayer from 1944, was not always more hale and hearty than his peers. Bill Borst, in his book "The Best of Seasons," wrote,
His medical history was what warranted coverage in The Sporting News in August 1944.  His career resume read like a medical textbook, securing him a discharge from the Navy.  He suffered from acute sinus trouble, chronic ulcers (so bad that he had to keep a quart of cold milk nearby in the dugout during games), and severe head pains from a nasty beaning.  His right thigh was three inches smaller in circumference than the left, causing him to limp noticeably.  Martin had to wear a heavy elastic brace on his weak leg for added support."
Musial, from Donora, Pennsylvania, and Martin, from Seattle, Washington, both made St. Louis their homes after retirement from baseball.  Martin retired in 1953 and Musial in 1963.  "Stan was always a gentleman, wherever he went" said Martin.

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