Baseball's long and storied past is filled with odd and quirky statistics and stories but none of them are stranger than this one.
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On June 3, 2010, Seattle Mariner and future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. called it quits. Griffey had a career that virtually guarantees a first ballot selection to Cooperstown: Twenty-two seasons, 13 All-Star games, 10 Gold Glove awards, 1 MVP award, and most of all 630 home runs (5th all time) and 1,836 RBI's (14th all time).
An argument can be made that Ken Griffey Jr. was the best left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder (not named Babe Ruth) in the history of baseball. However that same argument can also be made for St. Louis Cardinal and Hall of Fame member Stan "The Man" Musial.
Musial played 21 seasons but was in 24 All-Star games (from 1959-1962 two games per season were played), was a 3 time MVP, and won 3 World Series rings.
Both players were icons. Both had immediately recognizable nicknames: "Junior" and "Stan the Man." Both players hit a lot of home runs (Griffey had more) and knocked in a lot of runs (Musial had more).
On a recent warm summer evening at Safeco Field, watching the Mariners lose to Kansas City, my friend Al and I had a spirited debate (assisted by iPhone's Google app) as to which of these two greats was actually the greatest. As a lifelong Mariner and Griffey fan I sadly had to choose Musial. Al is (or was) firmly in the Griffey camp.
The truth is that if you extrapolate each man's statistics as if they each played 162 game seasons, the numbers are very close.
Musial had a better career batting average, averaged more extra base hits per season than Griffey, struck out far less, and walked more often.
Griffey averaged more home runs and RBI's per season and was very close to Musial in runs scored.
It's an extremely close call as to which player was better. Al and I agreed that we could almost toss a coin to determine the winner. As we both looked at our respective iPhone data we decided that, in the end, it came down to the only statistic that clearly separated the two men's careers:
Stan Musial had three World Series rings to Ken Griffey's zero. The greatest players win championships.
Al said, "Okay I give up. Musial wins." Al studied Griffey's bio for a moment. "I'll just say that Ken Griffey Jr. was the best left-handed outfielder that was born on November 21st in Donora Pennsylvania."
Looking at Musial's bio on my iPhone, I was confused. "Do you mean Stan Musial was the best left-handed player born on November 21st in Donora, Pennsylvania?"
"No, Griffey." Al handed me his iPhone. I looked, then handed him mine.
"Sorry Al but Ken Griffey's only the second best left-handed outfielder that was born on November 21st in Donora, Pennsylvania. Stan Musial was the best."
Stanley Frank Musial, born Nov. 21, 1920, Donora, PA.
George Kenneth "Ken" Griffey Jr., born Nov. 21, 1969, Donora, PA.
"How strange is that," Al muttered?
"Very strange," I replied. "Very strange indeed."
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