Facing three of the toughest starters in the National League, Stan Musial produced a spectacular hitting spree that propelled him to his second of seven batting titles.
Seventy years ago, from Aug. 11-12, 1946, Musial had 12 hits in 14 at-bats over three games against the Reds and Cubs.
The surge put Musial atop the NL batting leaders list, moving his average from .359 to .375. He went on to win the batting crown with a .365 average.
Musial achieved his nearly perfect stretch in games started by Johnny Vander Meer and Ewell Blackwell of the Reds and Claude Passeau of the Cubs. All three would earn multiple all-star berths and were honored as much for their competitiveness as for their skill.
On Aug. 11, 1946, a Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals played a doubleheader against the Reds at Cincinnati. A crowd of 32,288 _ the Reds’ second largest of the season _ attended the games at Crosley Field.
The Reds started Vander Meer, a left-hander who in 1938 had pitched consecutive no-hitters, in the opener.
In his book, “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said of Vander Meer, “One of the toughest I ever hit against. An extremely hard thrower and wild. His ball moved up and in on a left-handed hitter. You didn’t know where the ball was going. I don’t think Vandy knew either.”
Musial had four plate appearances versus Vander Meer in the Aug. 11 opener. He drew a walk in the first inning, singled in the third, popped out to the catcher in the fourth and drilled a RBI-single in the sixth.
After Vander Meer was lifted, Musial singled against Johnny Hetki in the seventh and tripled off former teammate Clyde Shoun in the ninth.
Musial’s line: 4-for-5 with a walk, three runs scored and one RBI in the Cardinals’ 15-4 victory. Boxscore
In the second game, the Reds started Blackwell, a right-hander with a wicked sidearm delivery.
“Blackie was one of the fastest and greatest pitchers I’ve seen.” said Musial. “He was big and gangly and because of his whip-like delivery you could hardly pick up the ball until it was in on you. He had natural stuff, including a terrific sinker.”
Musial had a double and a single in his two at-bats against Blackwell in the nightcap. Joe Beggs relieved and Musial reached him for a solo home run and a single. That gave Musial hits in seven consecutive at-bats over two games in the doubleheader.
In Musial’s fifth at-bat of Game 2, against Bob Malloy, he flied out to left.
Musial’s line: 4-for-5 with two runs scored and one RBI in a 7-3 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore
After the twinbill, the Cardinals boarded a train for Chicago. They opened a series against the Cubs on Monday, Aug. 12, at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs started Passeau, a right-hander. “His ball really went down,” Musial said. “I thought it was a spitter, just as others did, but Passeau, a mean competitor, always insisted it was a sinker. Wet or dry, it was a hell of a pitch.”
Musial singled against Passeau in the first inning. In the third, Passeau was lifted because of a back injury. Emil Kush relieved and Musial got three hits against him: a RBI-double in the third, a single in the fifth and a RBI-single in the seventh.
Musial’s line: 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored in a 5-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore
Musial achieved his third consecutive four-hit game.
His three-game totals: 12-for-14, eight singles, two doubles, one triple, one home run, one walk, six runs scored and four RBI.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch hailed Musial as “the National League’s closest approach to Ted Williams.”
A humble Musial told the Associated Press, “I guess it’s just a streak that comes along for everybody if they keep swinging.”
The next day, Aug. 13, Musial cooled off a bit. He was 1-for-4 against Cubs left-hander Johnny Schmitz.
Musial finished the 1946 season with a major league-leading 228 hits.
Previously: Why Cardinals moved Stan Musial to first base