by Mike –
Stan Musial died one week ago at the age of 92 and is being buried today in his beloved St. Louis, Missouri. He is a revered figure in St. Louis and in the whole world of baseball.
Even more important than his great talent on the ball field was who he was as a person. I never met Stan Musial but his granddaughter, Laura Sachson, is married to a good friend of mine, Thomas Sachson, and I have heard some stories. Like why didn’t he leave St. Louis and make big money in New York or California? “I was always happy here” he said, “why should I have left?”.
He was universally liked by fans and players alike, even the opponents.
There are two statues of him outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis where Stan Musial is considered the greatest Cardinal of them all.
My friend Thomas once asked me if I wanted an autographed baseball from Stan Musial. I couldn’t believe it and was able to mutter out “sure!”
On Thomas’ next trip to St. Louis he brought back a baseball signed by Stan the Man himself and personalized to me. It is a treasure that I will always keep and I only wish that I would have picked it up in person. Thank you Stan and thank you Thomas.
Stan Musial retired from playing baseball in 1963 and he played most of his career before I was able to know what a great player he was. A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a book titled “Baseball, A History of America’s Favorite Game” by George Vecsey, the long time New York Times sports columnist who has a special love for baseball.
As I was reading this book I was quite surprised at how many times Stan Musial’s name was mentioned, possibly more than any other player. Below I quote from the Prologue of this excellent book where Stan Musial is mentioned in the very first sentence and many more times just in the Prologue alone (not all are shown here, otherwise I would be reprinting the entire Prologue).
“Baseball, A History of America’s Favorite Game” by George Vecsey Selected Quotes from the Prologue
When we were young, we played ball in the family backyard in a quite corner of Queens, pretending we were Jackie Robinson or Stan Musial.
Half a century later, I found myself on a front lawn somewhere out in America, pitching a Wiffle Ball to my grandson.
“Hands back,” I told the boy. “Turn your hip to me. Look over your shoulder at the ball”.
Over the years, I have discovered the best way to teach children to hit is turning them into the twisted stance of Stanley Frank Musial, the laughing cavalier of the St. Louis Cardinals, who played his last game back in 1963.
Children are always surprised when they uncoil from the Musial stance, hitting the ball harder than they expected.
“And smile. Always smile. Hitting is fun”, I said. Children love getting permission to whack away at something. Smiling erases anxiety, releases positive energy.
“Stan Musial always smiled,” I added.
“They loved him, even in Brooklyn,” I said, invoking the holy borough of my childhood team, the long-departed Dodgers.
“Dodger fans loved Musial even when he beat them,” I said. “You know what they used to call him?”
The boy shook his head.
“Stan the Man.”
Stan Musial by the numbers
* Played in twenty-four All-Star Games
* Won seven batting championships
* 475 home runs
* 3,630 hits
* 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road – rare consistency
* Drove in 1,951 runs and scored 1,949 runs – more rare consistency
* Three World Series championships
* Three Most Valuable Player awards
* Career batting average of .331
* Retired in 1963 and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969
In 2011 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama and in 2009 he handed the baseball to President Obama for the ceremonial first pitch at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
George Vecsey writes about Stan Musial in the New York Times.
Read what else the New York Times has to say about Stan Musial.
I wish more professional athletes today were like Stan Musial.