Starting over three years ago, what began as a simple question about a curious photo turned into an extensive search. My self-initiated challenge became to try to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the circumstances surrounding a photo of a very young Stan Musial.
In it, “The Man,” then still a very young man, wore a jersey that was clearly not his trademark St. Louis Cardinals number 6. His cap was of the bird design used in 1941, rather than the 1942 StL logo cap.
The photo’s sheer existence, which led to the discovery of several others in which Musial was also wearing the number 19, created conflict. A significant number of well-respected sources, including Musial himself via his biography, stated the future Hall of Famer only wore the number 6 during his 22 years with St. Louis.
Then how did this photo come to be? My tasks were related but distinct – to determine both when and where the photo was taken.
The recent passing of the greatest St. Louis Cardinals player of all time reinforced my fear that a conclusive answer to the number 19 mystery might never be found. Yet, it also provided me encouragement to give my quest one more try.
I am pleased to report that I now have definitive proof that Musial wore number 19 during his first spring training camp as a major leaguer, in 1942. Stan had made his St. Louis debut the previous September as number 6.
This roster is from a ten-cent scorecard from Waterfront Park in St. Petersburg, Florida. In the second game of spring training 1942, March 7, Stanley Musial, number 19, batted third and played left field against the New York Yankees. According to the hand-scoring penciled in it, Musial played six innings, going 1-for-3, a single to right field, before being replaced by Erv Dusak. New York won, 3-2.
My research had led me to the spring 1942 conclusion long before now, but until most recently, I had only a long trail of circumstantial evidence.
We now know that Musial sported the number 19 jersey in the spring of 1942, both before and after his wearing of number 6 in the regular season.
Here is how it unfolded.
The Cardinals had employed at least three players who wore number 6 during the 1941 season. First was a promising young outfielder named Harry Walker, up for a second try at the bigs. Not deemed ready, Walker was returned to the minors. Next was a veteran infielder named Pep Young, briefly assigned number 6 just before Musial came up in September 1941. Young was deactivated by the time Stan arrived on September 17.
The following scorecard, sourced with the help of Mark Stang, SABR member and author of “Baseball by the Numbers” and copy provided by Jeff Scott of birdbats.com, is from Game 2 of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field on September 23, 1941. Musial is assigned number 6. A September 27 scorecard shared by Stang indicates the same.
Here is a cool side point. Note the hand scoring on the card above that indicates Musial hit his first major league home run in the fifth inning as the Cards won, 9-0. It was number one of 475 over his career. Though it was his only long ball with St. Louis in 1941, Musial earlier launched 29 of them in the minors.
Yet, as always seems the case, the process of answering one question opened up another.
The spring 1942 roster confirms that Walker was in camp, re-assigned his old number 6. That bumped Musial to wearing the number 19.
Why? Here is fact with some theory following.
At the time, Walker was a top Cardinals prospect. Then 25 years old, the future manager of the Cardinals (“Harry the Hat” would be player/manager during much of the 1955 season) had already spent short parts of the 1940 and 1941 seasons in the majors.
The fact that the rookie Musial, then barely 21 years of age, had to give up a number he had worn in just a dozen big league games is not particularly surprising. After all, Musial was not yet 12 months into his amazing transformation from a sore-armed Class-D pitcher into a regular major league outfielder.
Another potential factor is that after taking the National League by storm in September 1941, Musial struggled mightily at the plate in the spring of 1942. While wearing number 19, he batted just .199. Stan later explained the waving palm trees made it more difficult to see the ball. Perhaps a bit of superstition was involved in his return to number 6 as well.
Like Musial, Walker made the Cardinals roster to open the 1942 season, but was shifted to future Hall of Famer Johnny Mize’s old number 10, an unassigned uniform during spring training. A popular Cardinal, the Big Cat had been dealt to the New York Giants by general manager Branch Rickey following the 1941 season.
Why these shifts occurred, we may never know. Whatever the reason, Musial was given back number 6 to start the 1942 regular campaign, and the rest is history.
To be clear, however, in support of most references, including Musial’s own biography, he apparently did not ever wear any number other than 6 in his 22 years of regular season play.
Though it may now seem a straightforward path to the explanation of the number 19 photo, the road taken had many twists and turns.
My research loop was finally closed through a combination of persistence and good fortune. Though I had tested the route before, I decided shortly after Musial’s passing to try to again seek assistance through the SABR news list.
2013 provided a new lead. A responder, Jim Wohlenhaus, knew a non-SABR member named Joe Stillwell whose father he characterized as a “big time 1942 Cardinals fan.” It turned out that Jim was absolutely right. Unfortunately, Paul Stillwell initially replied that while he had a number of 1942 scorecards, he had none from spring training.
Only later on, after Paul checked his trove of materials, did he locate my Holy Grail – the pictured 1942 spring training roster with Musial’s number 19 documented. Stillwell holds the original, which I had previously been conditioned to expect to never find – due to the rarity of spring training materials, the war-time paper drives and the 70-plus years that have transpired.
This project began innocently enough in January 2010, as I received a note that Mike Oasheim sent to Stang, who shared it with the SABR list. Oasheim enclosed a photo from the Baseball Magazine supplement of young Musial, taken by well-known photographer William C. Greene of The New York World-Telegram and copyrighted in 1942. (Along with being a uniform numbers expert, Stang owns hundreds of vintage wire service photos, taken by a variety of photographers.)
Enlisting the help of readers on my blog, initial efforts were primarily focused on trying to identify the ballpark in the photo to help establish its date. At that point, we were unsure of whether it was a major or minor league setting. That led to searches for photos of the ballparks in which Musial played in 1941, including major league parks where he appeared after being called up to St. Louis.
Hand-me down uniforms were often worn by minor league clubs in the era, so we had no guarantee that Stan was with St. Louis at the time of the photo. Then again, why would Greene shoot Musial as a minor leaguer and where would it have been?
For some time, we were thrown off by accounts that Greene had only photographed subjects in New York. Stang noted that Musial’s Rochester Red Wings played in Newark, New Jersey in the 1941 International League playoffs. A series of investigations in that direction proved to be inconclusive.
Additional efforts were spent in analysis of Musial’s cap and uniform. The photo seemed to indicate he is wearing a 1941 cap and a jersey that had yet to be affixed with the war-time patch all major leaguers donned starting in the 1942 regular season.
That led to an evaluation of which year the photo may have been taken. 1941 was ruled out.
Through an extensive search of various online records of photo and newspaper archives, we determined the setting of the number 19 photo was St. Petersburg’s Waterfront Park, later known as Al Lang Stadium. During this period, the Cardinals and Yankees shared the facility for spring training games, creating a plausible scenario as to why the New York photographer Greene would have taken the Musial photo.
In spring of 1941, Musial had been a struggling minor league pitcher still in the midst of moving to the outfield full time. He would neither have been in major league camp nor posing for photographers as a hitter. Through several biographies, we identified in which minor league camps Musial had been assigned in 1941, concluding he would have been hundreds of miles away from St. Pete.
A further search of newspaper records led to a very similar version of the photo in question which ran in the St. Petersburg Independent on April 6, 1942, establishing one time boundary.
The accompanying article included the following assessment of the left-fielder’s first major league spring camp:
“Musial, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to maintain a .200 average. He has collected only 16 hits in 81 trips to the plate. But he has shown flashes of power, belting two home runs, a triple and three doubles.”
While we located another documented use of and reference to the number 19 photo, it suggested the timeframe may have been in 1941. Based on conclusions already drawn, this was troubling news and as such, needed to be investigated thoroughly.
A well-done reference document, “St. Louis Cardinals Encyclopedia,” written by Bob Broeg and Jerry Vickery, was the source. It includes the recollection of long-time Cardinals equipment manager Butch Yatkeman accompanying the number 19 photo, though it was not a direct quote.
The following is from page 258. Note the caption at the upper left.
By all other accounts, the first statement accompanying the photo seems to be in error. Reference the September 23, 1941 scorecard above. It indicates the aforementioned outfielder Dusak, one of a group of players who came up with Musial on September 17, had been assigned number 19, not Musial.
As I approached surviving co-author Vickery with my findings, he was very supportive and interested in the 1941 scorecard. He helped with the cap and jersey identification, including another Greene photo in which Musial is wearing the same 1941 cap, next to manager Billy Southworth, who was sporting a 1942 cap.
Vickery also offered to try to find a record of the Cardinals spring training roster from the spring of 1942. He knew a nephew of the now-deceased Yatkeman who had boxes of the equipment manager’s old records in his possession at one time. Unfortunately, that very promising lead dried up when it became a needle-in-a-haystack proposal to search through 40 cartons of materials for what may have been a single sheet of paper.
From Vickery, and confirmed by the Hall of Fame, I learned the version of the photo used in the Encyclopedia is part of the Hall’s collection. Most importantly, its reverse is stamped with the date March 1, 1942. For reference, Musial reported to camp in Florida on February 27 and the Cardinals played their first game on March 6.
I received considerable assistance from Tim Wiles and John Horne of the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, who searched their files in vain for any other Musial number 19 documentation. However, they consulted on the uniform questions and provided a number of other photos of young Stan that helped to positively identify Waterfront Park.
The direct approach
My spring training 1942 theory seemed to check out in almost every manner – short of firm confirmation. My ideal would be to ask Musial myself, but getting to him was not going to be easy. With Stan approaching 90 years of age in 2010 and in declining health, he was no longer around the club with any regularity.
I first reached out through his business entity, StanTheMan Inc. His secretary of half a century, Pat Anthony, reviewed my materials. Both she and Musial’s business manager, Dick Zitzmann, cited one prominent piece of documentation which conflicted with my theory – Broeg and Vickrey’s Encyclopedia.
Despite my providing them a copy of the 1941 scorecard pictured above, they remained firm in support of the Encyclopedia reference that Musial did not wear number 6 until 1942. Zitzmann initially said the number 19 photo was from 1941 while Anthony did agree that it was from the spring of 1942. Given the inconsistencies, I could not settle for this being definitive.
I asked Zitzmann if he would please query Stan directly on my behalf, but that went unanswered. I did receive a standard-issue Musial autographed photo index card from Anthony, which was the undoubtedly best sendoff I have ever received.
Next, I took the number 19 photo directly to Musial’s long-time teammate and friend, Red Schoendienst, who agreed to ask Stan about it. Interestingly, Red was the last to wear number 6 other than Musial as he was assigned the digit in 1945 while Stan was in the service. However, this line did not go anywhere, either. If Red ever spoke to Musial on my behalf, he did not acknowledge it. I eventually stopped asking.
Still close but not 100 percent sure, I had run out of leads, letting this sit for over a year.
In early 2012, the story was returned to the top of my priorities by a tweet about an old Musial photo from his grandson Brian Schwarze, vice president of StanTheMan Inc.
When I approached Schwarze with the number 19 photo, he was initially surprised by it, not having seen it before. Soon, he joined the search and unearthed another shot of Stan in the same uniform. This camera angle was toward the outfield instead of the stands and came from Acme Newspictures, Inc. It was dated 1942 without month or day, and certified by a firm called PSA/DNA Authentication Services.
At my request, in early 2012, Schwarze was kind enough to discuss the photo directly with his grandfather. Unfortunately, Musial, then 91 years of age, “doesn’t remember wearing anything but number 6,” his grandson related.
Disappointed, I feared I would never fully solve the mystery.
That pleasantly changed here in 2013. Paul Stillwell’s 1942 spring training roster pushed the search across the goal line once and for all.
Along with the names mentioned throughout this article, several very involved readers of this site were key participants in the hunt, especially blingboy and bigchieftootiemontana. So were members of SABR; the Library of Congress (via Mark Stang); Steve Steinberg, who searched the New York City Public Library archives for the March 1942 photo in the New York World-Telegram and consulted on Baseball Magazine supplements; the Ernie Harwell Collection of the Detroit Public Library, which includes 1941 and 1942 Cardinals Media Guides; Chuck Hinkel of the Rochester Red Wings; Paula Homan, manager and curator of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum; Musial biographer James Giglio (“From Stash to Stan The Man”); Jerome Mileur, author of the 1942 Cardinals-themed book “High-Flying Birds”; and many others.
They volunteered their personal time and energy to help me unlock the mystery behind the photo. My cap is tipped to them all.
Update February 2017
On Twitter, user @CardinalLegends posted the following photo of Musial in a pose as if he is chasing down a fly ball. He looks to be wearing the number 19 (as the “1” is visible) and perhaps it was taken in one of the sessions noted above.
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