Stan Musial, Revered Baseball Icon, Dies At 92

By  //  January 21, 2013

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Remembrance Of A Baseball Legend

(VIDEO: MarkStanleyVideo)

BREVARD COUNTY • MERRITT ISLAND, FLORIDA — Yesterday, Stanley Frank Musial, one of the greatest players in the history of  baseball, died peacefully surrounded by family at his home in Ladue, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

An individual whose life on and off the field characterized what a true role model should be, “Stan the Man” was an all-star 24 times, earned 7 National League batting titles, is, of course, a member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and without question, not only for his athletic prowess, but as much for his affability and life-long humanitarian work, is the most revered sports figure ever in the city of St. Louis.

Personal Hero

Stan and my Dad were the same age. My Dad, who died two years ago, was my first hero. “The Man” was my second. I was born and raised in St. Louis, where the Cardinals have always been and will always be the center of city devotion and pride.

Although the narrative seems to always center around Williams and DiMaggio as to who was the best of that era of baseball, Musial outperformed them both.

Musial had already led the Redbirds to three National League pennants and World Series by the time I was born in 1949, and my only regret growing up with the Cardinals was that I didn’t get a chance to see him in a World Series.

Greatest Hitter Of His Era

During the era of the Ted Williams-Joe DiMaggio Northeast big-media debate of who was the greatest hitter of the time, “The Man” outperformed them both. At the time of his retirement in 1963, Musial held or shared 17 major league records, 29 NL records, and 9 All-Star Game records.

The Fan’s ‘Man’

Like all of the kids of my generation growing up in St. Louis and across the heartland of America where the Cardinals had a wide and loyal following, I tried to emulate “The Man’s” closed stance crouch, and unwind like a corkscrew to drive the ball.

This is one of two statues at ‘new’ Busch Stadium that memorialize and celebrate ‘Stan the Man’ as a player and St. Louis icon.

Although my Mom and Dad knew Stan through my uncle and aunt, Yogi and Carmen Berra, I did not know Musial personally, but met him several times at the annual “Photo Day” at “old” Busch Stadium, formerly Sportsman’s Park.

Each year fans were allowed to go down to the railings along the third and first base sides of the field prior to the game to meet and greet the players from both teams, get autographs and take photos of them. You had to get there and queued up to the railing pretty early on the Cardinal home side, and, of course, Stan was the player we all wanted to talk to and photograph.  As epitomized Musial’s relationship with the fans, he was always the first player to appear out of the clubhouse and did not leave until the last kid got their autograph and picture.

Musial Personifies ‘When It Was A Game’

When I read of Musial’s death, it brought to mind the remembrance below that I wrote in 2005 for our baseball history website, WhenItWasAGame.net. My brother, Tom, and I developed WIWAG as a memorial to our dad and our family baseball heritage. The themes and content are dedicated to the remembrance, celebration and preservation of what baseball meant to America during the game’s “Golden Age.”

The actual bat that Stan Musial used to hit 5 home runs in a double-header against the Giants in 1954, and is now on loan to the Yogi Berra Baseball Museum in Montclair, New Jersey, is the subject of a fascinating and true story on WIWAG.

Stan Musial’s life personified everything that was good about America and its athletic heros. “The Man” will be missed–may he rest in Peace.

STAN MUSIAL: THE ANATOMY OF A MAJOR LEAGUE RECORD-SETTING PERFORMANCE

As epitomized Musial’s relationship with the fans, he was always the first player to appear out of the clubhouse and did not leave until the last kid got their autograph and picture.

REMEMBERING WHEN IT WAS A GAME

WHENITWASAGAME.NET (MAY 2005) — After walking up the cool, dark ramp to the reserved seats on the third base side of old Busch Stadium, I emerged into the open, and the brilliant, searing heat of the early afternoon July sun in St. Louis hit me full force. The field seemed vast to a 7-year old who had anticipated this day for two months: A Sunday double header with the Braves!

BIG LEAGUE DREAMS: Like millions of my contemporaries in 1956, I had aspirations to play Major League baseball – and all my heroes were ballplayers.

Burdette and Spahn going against Jackson and Mizell. Heaven surely couldn’t have provided the pure joy and elation that overwhelmed me as I peered out over the acres of green where Musial, Boyer, MoonCooper and company were taking batting practice, and AaronMathewsLogan and Adcock were busy at a game of pepper, preparing for a day’s work.

These were my heroes. Don’t let anyone ever suggest, as many athletes do today, that these men and many other ball players of the era were not role models to millions of us classified as “Baby Boomers.” Professional athletes cannot relinquish, off-hand, their responsibility to the youth of America.

Of course, these men were human and far from perfect. However, their personal discretions never threatened the integrity of the game or the well-being of the youth striving to emulate them on the field. It was a time when “the game” was respected by players, owners, major league governance and the fans.

Two of the greatest–Henry Aaron and Stan Musial circa 1957.

There were no multimillion-dollar contracts, no free agency, no cable TV, no performance-enhancing drugs, no bikini-clad plastic surgery queens extolling the virtue of drinking low-carb, low-cal pseudo-brew, no player’s union and no attorneys interfering with a deal and a handshake.

There were no swimming pools, video game arcades, sky boxes or skytrons within the “friendly confines.” The fare for the afternoon was hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks. If you were looking for sushi or nachos you were not only in the wrong place, but in the wrong country in 1956.

The players sported no beards, corn rows, shaggy hairdos, tats or piercings. The only glove used in baseball was a fielder’s, catcher’s or first-baseman’s mitt. Other gloves were used when it was cold or on the golf course.

EBBETS FIELD was a shrine to baseball in the 1950s.

That was a time when ballparks were called County Stadium, Connie Mack Stadium, Ebbets Field and The Polo Grounds, rather than being named for banks, animal supply outfits or cellular phone companies whose only interest in baseball is to have a venue to market on the “big screen.”

That was a time when the Commissioner of Baseball had some “cojones” and took his responsibility to protect the integrity of the game seriously.

In 1956, major league baseball was not an industry being suckled by hundreds of disparate parasites, performing like a phony professional wrestling troupe and living by the adage: “Show me the money!”

In the ‘Golden Age’ of baseball, fans could depend on Yogi, Whitey and Mickey being there for them year after year.

Ball players didn’t come and go at the whim of an agent or owner. The great teams of the ’40s and ’50s maintained their nucleus of star players and earned the adoration of their fans.

I always knew that Musial and Boyer would be in the Cardinal lineup; Spahn, Burdette, Aaron, Mathews, Logan, Adcock and Crandall in the Braves lineup;  Snider, Reese, Robinson, Furillo, Hodges and Campy in the Dodger lineup; and Berra, Ford, Mantle, Richardson and Howard in the Yankee lineup.

Ask yourself if you, as a fan, are better off now (free agency, dominance of large media markets, minimal regard for cohesive team building by owners, and huge salaries that have led to player’s “excel at any cost” attitude) than then.

Two of baseball’s most affable sportsmen, Willie and ‘The Man,’ trading secrets here in 1961.

That was a time when, while hanging precariously over the railing, if you asked a super star like Musial or Mays to sign your program, they would smile and ask, “Who to?!” – and not expect to be paid $49.99, plus tax.

That’s when the game was played by naturally hard-hitting, hard-driving men who respected the game and it’s heritage, and who didn’t mind taking a minute to make the dreams of a 7-year-old fan come true.

Do you remember WHEN IT WAS A GAME?!

– Jim Palermo


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