Born in Donora, Pennsylvania, Musial started his career as a pitcher but moved to the outfield permanently in 1940, the year before his major-league debut.
Musial played 1,890 games in the outfield and 1,016 games at first base, but was primarily known for his hitting. The left-hander led the National League in hitting seven times and in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and hits six times each. He won the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1943, 1946, and 1948. His 3,630 career hits ranks fourth all-time, behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, and Hank Aaron, and his .331 career batting average ranks 30th.
His hitting was also very consistent. He had exactly the same number of hits in home and away games, and batted .336 at home and .326 on the road. In day games, he batted .340 and batted .320 at night.
Musial once said, "I consciously memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve, and slider; then, I'd pick up the speed of the ball in the first thirty feet of its flight and knew how it would move once it had crossed the plate."
Former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Carl Erksine once humorously described his strategy of pitching to Musial: "I've had pretty good success with Stan by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third."
Like many American baseball players, Musial spent part of his career serving in World War II, missing the 1945 season to serve as a seaman first class in the United States Navy from January 1945 to March 1946.
Musial played in 24 All-Star games and the Cardinals retired his uniform number 6 at the end of the 1963 season. A statue of Musial was erected outside of Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri in 1968. It is inscribed with a quote from former baseball commissioner Ford Frick: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."
At the 1962 All-Star Game, U.S. President John F. Kennedy said to Musial, "A couple of years ago they told me I was too young to be president and you were too old to be playing baseball. But we fooled them."
Sportscaster Bob Costas described Musial as consistent, not flamboyant like contemporaries such as Joe DiMaggio: "He didn't hit a homer in his last at-bat; he hit a single. He didn't hit in 56 straight games. He married his high school sweetheart and stayed married to her, never married a Marilyn Monroe. He didn't play with the sheer joy and style that goes alongside Willie Mays' name. None of those easy things are there to associate with Stan Musial. All Musial represents is more than two decades of sustained excellence and complete decency as a human being."