Facing the National League team that yielded the most home runs during the season in which he first emerged as one of the sport’s elite sluggers, Stan Musial in 1948 became the first Cardinals player to hit walkoff homers in consecutive games.
Musial was hitting .382 with 31 homers as the Cardinals opened a four-game series with the Giants on Aug. 26, 1948, in St. Louis.
In the second game of a Thursday night doubleheader before 13,139 at Sportman’s Park, the score was 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth. With Erv Dusak on first and one out, Musial faced right-handed reliever Ken Trinkle.
Musial had homered against Trinkle on May 26 at the Polo Grounds in New York. (Musial would hit more homers (11) against the Giants than any other team in 1948, and the Giants would give up more homers (122) than any other NL team that year).
Again, Musial tagged Trinkle, launching a two-run homer and giving the Cardinals a 7-5 walkoff victory. Boxscore
Game 3 of the series was postponed by rain on Friday night, Aug. 27, setting up another doubleheader on Saturday, Aug. 28.
In the opener, the score was 4-4 when Musial batted against starter Monty Kennedy, a left-hander, with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth. His liner to first baseman Johnny Mize resulted in an unassisted double play that sent the game into extra innings.
Musial got another chance against Kennedy in the 12th. With one out, Musial cracked a solo homer, giving the Cardinals a 5-4 victory with his second walkoff blast in as many games. Boxscore
The Cardinals also won the second game of that doubleheader, completing a four-game sweep.
In his autobiography, “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story” (1964, Doubleday), Musial indicated the Cardinals turned up their intensity when playing the Giants because of the presence of New York manager Leo Durocher.
Durocher, a relentless antagonist, had battled the Cardinals as manager of the Dodgers. In July 1948, in a move that shocked the baseball world, Durocher left the Dodgers and became manager of the Giants, replacing Mel Ott.
The 1948 Cardinals were 11-1 against the Giants after Durocher became their manager.
“Leo liked to play the game rough, liked to make it a game of intimidation,” Musial wrote. “His tactics turned us from tabbies into tigers.”
The game-winner on Aug. 28 was Musial’s 33rd homer of the season. Since arriving in the big leagues in 1941, Musial never had hit as many as 20 homers in a season. In 1948, he would finish with a career-best 39. It was the start of a 10-year stretch in which Musial hit 20 or more homers each season, including six years with 30 or more.
“The power surge felt good, mighty good,” Musial wrote.
In his book “Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man” (2001, University of Missouri Press), author James N. Giglio wrote of Musial’s home run production:
Always able to smack outside pitches to left field, Musial nevertheless became a smarter and more confident hitter in 1948. His greater sensitivity to the strike zone made him even more dangerous with two strikes. Instead of trying to protect the plate, he bore down harder and took his customary swing.
Musial won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1948. He hit .376 with 131 RBI, 230 hits and 135 runs scored. His slugging percentage (.702) was the first above .700 in the NL since Hack Wilson (.723) of the Cubs in 1930, and his 103 extra-base hits were four shy of the NL record established by Chuck Klein of the Phillies in 1930.
For more on walkoff homers, see our colleagues at The Cardinal Nation Blog.