Book Review: Stan Musial: An American Life by George Vecsey


April 13, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial waves to the crowd during an opening day ceremony before a game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Chicago defeated St. Louis 9-5. Image Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Over the last few days, I’ve been busy with reading Stan Musial: An American Life by George Vecsey. Vecsey’s book on Stan Musial was originally published by Ballantine/ESPN Books in May of 2011.

There is no doubt in my mind that Vecsey’s biography of Stan the Man was a labor of love. Musial was not interviewed for the book, which is considered an unauthorized biography but the author spoke with dozens of Musial’s friends, admirer’s and family members–not to mention his former teammates and opponents, who spoke of Musial’s generosity off the field.

Is this the definitive portrait of The Greatest Cardinal That Ever Lived? I would wager to say yes. Even without Musial being available for interviews, Vecsey was able to draw on what Musial wrote in his own autobiography published in 1964 and the latter biography of Musial, published in 1977, written by the late Bob Broeg. Unfortunately for the younger generations of St. Louis Cardinals fans, both books are out of print.

Vecsey uses his book to say why Musial was under-appreciated nationally following his playing days, compared to New York Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio or Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. Does it have to do with the fact that Stan played in the Midwest as opposed to New York City? No doubt about it. Early on, Vecsey talks to broadcaster Bob Costas and MLB commissioner Bud Selig to talk about the All-Century Team in 1999 and Musial having to be added to the team with the five additional slots made available.

Vecsey explores the way in how Musial became the savvy businessman and a role model of both humilty and grace.

All in all, it’s an intimate oral history of the Cardinals icon, who still holds many franchise records. If this isn’t the definitive biography, it’s pretty darn close.