Mel Ott, the left-handed Giants slugger who five times led the National League in home runs during the 1930s, was one of the boyhood favorites of Stan Musial.
Musial, in turn, was one of the boyhood idols of Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale.
So when Musial surpassed Ott as the NL career leader in RBI by hitting a two-run homer off Drysdale, it was a feat with special meaning for the Cardinals standout.
This is the 50-year anniversary of Musial breaking Ott’s NL RBI record of 1,860.
Today, Musial ranks third in career NL RBI and sixth among all big-league players.
Hank Aaron is the major-league career leader in RBI, with 2,297. Aaron also is the all-time NL leader, with 2,202. Barry Bonds rates second in career NL RBI (1,996), 45 ahead of Musial (1,951).
Musial, 41, had a splendid season for St. Louis in 1962. With a batting average near .350, Musial was being feted by the expansion Colt .45s in Houston on July 20, 1962, when he told reporters he intended to play again in 1963.
Speaking to The Sporting News about Musial, Cardinals manager Johnny Keane said, “He’s probably the most feared clutch hitter in the National League.”
Five days later, July 25, the Cardinals were home to play the Dodgers and their intimidating right-hander, Don Drysdale. A winner of his last seven decisions, Drysdale entered the game with a 17-4 record and 2.90 ERA.
In the sixth inning, the Dodgers led, 2-0, when Musial faced Drysdale with a runner (Bill White) on first. Drysdale’s first pitch to Musial was a fastball, low and away. Musial swung and launched a drive that bounced off the right-field light tower, about 85 feet above the playing field, the Associated Press reported. The ball ricocheted back onto the field and was retrieved by umpire Ed Vargo, who gave it to Cardinals trainer Bob Bauman for safekeeping. Boxscore
The two RBI gave Musial 1,862, moving him ahead of Ott (who had driven in his last run in 1946) for the all-time NL lead.
In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story” (1964, Doubleday), Musial wrote:
Ottie, one of my early idols, was a class guy as well as a great player and I’m glad I had the chance to play against him. I liked his mannerisms and his manners.
Drysdale congratulated Musial in the Cardinals clubhouse and told reporters Musial was his boyhood idol.
Replied Musial to The Sporting News: “I’m glad I broke the record against a tough pitcher.”
Drysdale, like Musial, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Musial batted .324 (22-for-68) against Drysdale, but the hit that gave him the career NL RBI lead was his lone career home run off the dominating Dodger.