When you write the type of column that I do, you are constantly searching for ideas. Most of the time I am lucky. I do not have to look too far, because I have so many personal experiences. However, a great deal of the time it is necessary to blend the past with the present.
So when Bob Block, my friend, mentor, one of the founders of the United States Sports Academy whom I have looked on as perhaps the only “genius” I shall know in my lifetime, informed me that Stan Musial had passed away, a light bulb went on over my head. In case you don’t know, for years many of the cartoonists in developing their comic strips used that as a symbol of an idea being born.
The idea of writing about Stan “The Man” Musial was reinforced when later that day at lunch, my pal Jerry Berger, a long time executive with Budweiser told me how gracious Stan was wherever they met … whether in St Louis at the Brewery, on the street, on a road trip or at Stan’s restaurant which along with “The Arch” and Budweiser has long been considered a St. Louis landmark.
In fact, Stan had an expression, “what d’ya say, what d’ya, what d’ya say.” Stan always had time to stop and chat with anyone who wanted to say “hello.” If a fan wanted an autograph, young or old, infirmed, or well, Stan was ready to oblige. This great Hall of Famer” always found time. By the way, he never charged a single cent.
This son of Donora, Pa., a coal-mining and steel-making town, where his parents worked long, hard hours to make ends meet, appreciated the talent he was given and never forgot his roots. He always thanked the autograph seeker, or the fan that wanted to take a picture of him. He never forgot how blessed he was, or where he came from.
By now, most of my readers know that I am a fan of all Boston Teams. In fact, when I was a kid we had two major league teams, the Red Sox and the Braves. If you must know, the Braves were my favorites until they moved to Milwaukee (now Atlanta). Unlike many of my friends from Brooklyn who easily transferred their allegiance to Los Angeles, I could not. Instead, the Red Sox got my full support.
However, when St Louis was in town, I would cheer for the Braves to win, but I would
never boo “The Man.” He was special. Personally, I only met him once. It was at the 1956 All-Star Game in St Louis. I was a young guy working for Gillette. I felt insignificant, but Stan spent over 30 minutes with me. He asked more questions about my desires, and my aspirations while rarely talking about himself. He didn’t know me!
Stan was religious man, married to the same woman for 72 years. He signed with the Cardinals in 1938 as a free agent. He received no bonus. However, he was their left-handed first baseman from 1941-1963. He made St Louis his home. He never achieved individual records like Joe DiMaggio (56-game hit streak) or Ted Williams (last man to hit .400); all he did was play baseball better than most and lead his team to the World Series more than once.
In or out of the sports world, you will never find anyone who will utter a bad word when talking about “The Man.” He was respected by the old and admired by the young. After 92 years he has left us.
He was a hero!