A deeply admiring, fawning biography of the great St. Louis Cardinal.
Longtime New York Times sports columnist Vecsey (Baseball: A History of America’s Favorite Game, 2006, etc.) wears glasses with deeply Cardinal-colored lenses throughout his anecdotal record of the Hall of Fame left fielder/first baseman, whose spectacular career—which included a .331 lifetime average and a record 24 All-Star selections—ran from 1941 to 1963. Readers who want details about Musial’s personal life will have to wait for a more rigorous treatment, as will fans who want thorough descriptions of specific games and seasons. But those who want repetitious pages about the wonders of the character of Stan the Man will find their appetites quickly sated. Vecsey narrates chronologically, but there are numerous brief interchapters highlighting moments in Musial’s life, generally designed to establish his sainthood qualifications—his acts of kindness and comments from adoring fans and former teammates. Rarely does the author say anything negative (Musial once refused to sign an autograph), but, otherwise, it’s trivia and treacle. Vecsey even ends with a personal memory of Musial’s warm hand after a recent handshake. The author celebrates Musial’s great 1962 season (he hit .330) but neglects to mention his subsequent year (.255)—or to note that in his final five seasons he hit over .300 only once. Repeatedly, Vecsey laments Musial’s inferior position to Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams in most fans’ minds, attributing it to Musial’s self-effacing goodness. In perhaps the most egregious example of his tendentiousness, the author notes that Musial went to his St. Louis restaurant the night of the JFK assassination because he realized “his buddy had been gunned down, and the world needed to see Stanley.”
Rather than a journalist’s or a biographer’s disinterested analysis, the author offers a fan’s notes.