Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Man

Many an athlete has been called 'The Man'.  But really, there is only man. 


Baseball lost one of it's finest yesterday, one of the game's greatest ambassadors, a living legend and the truest of gentlemen.  Stan Musial.

And America lost another cherished member of our Greatest Generation.

Stan Musial had a wonderfully full life.  He lived to be 92 years old.  He played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals and he was an integral part of the organization until he drew his last breath. He was married to his beloved Lil for 71 years.  They had 4 children, 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

I'm not old enough to remember Stan as a player.  When I began to really follow baseball, he was already a long-time Hall of Famer.  But even as a player of yesteryear, I knew how special Stan Musial was.  He was always mentioned in the same breath as the other greats of his era.  Aaron, Mantle, DiMaggio, Banks, Mays and Williams.

I've oft said that no one should ever be placed on a pedestal.  Whether it's an athlete, entertainer or world leader, everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes.  It's all part of being, well, human.  It's fine to admire someone for an aspect of their life, but never should they be considered perfect or infallible.  By doing that, we set ourselves up for disappointment.  All that said, Stan Musial, by all accounts, seems pedestal worthy.

Stan Musial was a humble and unassuming man.  He was a consummate professional who played the game right.  He took "a break" from baseball at the top of his game to serve his country in World War II.  He supported the integration of baseball and Bob Gibson spoke many times of how Stan helped establish a warm chemistry between black and white players in the Cardinals clubhouse.  And he loved to play the harmonica.

Stan retired from baseball in 1963.  At the time, he held or shared 17 major league records, 29 National League records, and nine All-Star Game records.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969 (his first year of eligibility) on 93.2 percent of the ballots.  He never left St. Louis, becoming a business leader in the community.  From 1964 to 1967 he was the Johnson administration's physical fitness advisor.  He served as a Vice President in the Cardinals front office from 1963 to 1966 and then as the team's General Manager in 1967.  That year the Cardinals won the World Series. 

How beloved is Stan Musial in St. Louis?  There is not just one, but two statues of him at Busch Stadium.  In his retirement, he rarely missed an Opening Day or any Cardinals celebration.  He was cherished and revered by all the Cardinals players who followed him.  In response to a massive campaign by Cardinals Nation in 2011, Stan Musial was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor an American civilian can receive. 

Stan Musial is the most beloved St. Louis Cardinal in the team's illustrious history.  One of his statues at Busch Stadium holds the following inscription:

"Here stands baseball's perfect warrior.
Here stands baseball's perfect knight."

Today, we like to think that we are watching the greatest players that baseball has ever produced.  They don't hold a candle to Stan The Man.  Their accomplishments pale in comparison.

- Stan Musial played 22 seasons with a lifetime .331 batting average, a .417 on-base percentage and a .559 slugging percentage.

- Stan Musial was the National League MVP in 1943, 1946 and 1948.  He came in second on the ballot four times.

- Stan Musial won the National League batting title in 1943, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1957.

- Stan Musial played in four World Series, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1946.  His team won three of the four.

- Stan Musial played in 24 All-Star Games.

- Stan Musial missed the entire 1945 season as he served in our nation's Navy during World War II.  When he returned in 1946, he won the National League's MVP award.  He also won the National League's batting title and the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series.  Think about it, he achieved three of baseball's biggest accomplishments while not playing the entire previous season.

- Stan Musial never struck out 50 times in a season.

- Stan Musial led the National League in almost every hitting category for at least one year, except home runs.

- In 1948, Stan Musial had four five-hit games.  He batted .376 for the season and led the league in hits, total bases, doubles and triples.  He hit a career-high 39 home runs, falling one short of winning the Triple Crown.

- In his final at-bat, Stan Musial hit an RBI single past Cincinnati's rookie second baseman, Pete Rose.  18 years later, Rose would break Musial's 3,630 hit record.

- Stan Musial played in 3,026 games.  He made 12,717 plate appearances, hit 475 home runs, had 1,951 RBIs and 78 stolen bases.

- Stan Musial had exactly 1,815 hits at home and exactly 1,815 hits on the road.

- Stan Musial was a first ballot Hall of Famer, ranking 19th all-time in most votes received.  At the time of his induction, only five players had received more votes.  Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Bob Feller and Ted Williams.

I found some beautiful tributes to Stan today.  Some I'd like to share.

"I never heard anybody say a bad word about him — ever." 
   - Willie Mays

"It is such a sad day, but I am so blessed to have spent time with him the last 12 years.  He blessed my life, and many, many lives in baseball during his career, and after his career.  He touched so many lives.  He means as much as Roberto Clemente does to Latin people.  Thank God I had the opportunity to know him.  I wish my kids had the opportunity to be around him, because that's how I want my kids to live their lives.  I want them to be like Stan Musial.  Not the baseball player.  The person.  That's the respect I have for that man.  I will cherish my friendship with Stan for as long as I live."
   - Albert Pujols

"I knew Stan very well. He used to take care of me at All-Star Games, 24 of them. He was a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could."
   - Willie Mays

"We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family." 
   - William DeWitt Jr. Cardinals owner.

"Major League Baseball has lost one of its true legends in Stan Musial, a Hall of Famer in every sense and a man who led a great American life. He was the heart and soul of the historic St. Louis Cardinals franchise for generations.  As remarkable as 'Stan the Man' was on the field, he was a true gentleman in life. All of Major League Baseball mourns his passing."   
   - Commissioner Bud Selig

"St. Louis has been lucky to have a player like Stan Musial. He will always be Mr. Baseball. It's a very big loss. You can go around the world and you'll never find a better human being than Stan Musial."
   - Whitey Herzog, Cardinals Hall of Fame Manager

"Stan was a favorite in Cooperstown, from his harmonica rendition of `Take Me Out to the Ball Game' during Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies, to the reverence he commanded among other Hall of Fame members and all fans of the game. More than just a baseball hero, Stan was an American icon and we will very much miss him in Cooperstown."
   - Jane Forbes Clark, Hall of Fame Chairman

"Stan will be remembered in baseball annals as one of the pillars of our game.  The mold broke with Stan. There will never be another like him."
   - Jeff Idelson, Hall of Fame President

 I had every intention of writing about Earl Weaver today.   With all due respect to the Oriole's skipper, when I read of Stan Musial's passing, I was compelled to write about him first.  Two legends, two Hall of Famers, two baseball icons lost on the same day.  I will pay tribute to Mr. Weaver soon.  He deserves nothing less.

(for some odd reason, I'm unable to upload my photos of Stan Musial.  I'll post an update later)



  1. After reading this, i'm happy to say, i'm readying thy self for some baseball.

  2. They didn't call him "The Man" for nothing. Great player and better person. He will always be part of my baseball life.
    Paul M.

  3. To me, a perfect gentleman, a great player, more important, a decent man. Loved to watch him play the game. RC

  4. Stan's batting stance was unique, but his hitting was outstanding. Loved, watching him play.
    Paul M.

  5. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, near Ebbets Field, a big Dodger fan, I loathed Stan The Man because he always went 2 for 4 or 3 for 5 leading the Cards to victory. When I matured, I learned to appreciate what a great player he was, one of the all-time greats. He was a humble man & a gentleman. Rare in todays world of multi-millionaire athletes. And no scandals!

  6. What an amazing person Mr. Musial was. Although I never personally met Stan I was lucky to be in his presence many times while working for the Cardinals! Opening Day in St. Louis is a cherished event for many reasons but it was the honor of seeing Stan greet us at home plate that really made it extra special.
    Thanks for the memories but most of all thank you for making St. Louis so proud to have one of the last great American Heros!
    - Chris Y.

  7. I meet him once about 22 years ago and got to spend about 15 minutes talking with him one-on-one. He was great and treated me just like anyone else even though I was just a college kid. If you did not know who he was, you would never know that he was one of the greatest players ever by his demeanor and attitude and his kindness to everyone. TT

  8. You are all making me so jealous! I was already envious of those of you who were lucky enough to see Stan play, but Terry, you are the luckiest of all! What a great moment for you!!

  9. It really is a memory I cherish. TT

  10. Felt the need to include: . Baseball lost a lot this passed week.
    Kaylee S.

  11. Great read Kaylee! I LOVE the epitaph that Earl Weaver wrote for himself. He said, "On my tombstone just write, ‘The sorest loser that ever lived.’" Awesome!!

  12. Stan Musial never gets his rightful due as one of the greatest players of all time due, in part to his personality. The nasty ones; Dimaggio and Williams got the respect and Musial was left out.
    - Karl A.

  13. Excellent point Karl. Your line of thinking ties in perfectly with my previous post regarding Dale Murphy. It's been said that being a clean-cut, family guy who created no drama or controversy actually hurt Murph in the Hall of Fame voting.

  14. I have been a baseball professional for well over twenty years; played and coached at the college level, heavily involved in semipro baseball, and most importantly have taught kids. In fact, I wrote, produced, and was lead spokesman for an instructional series which had many many endorsements and most notably was used in the coaching certification process by the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

    I say all this in order to make a point about the priorities in our society relative to baseball and sports in general and that is that the "win at all costs" and "win above everything else" mentality that dominates sports (most especially) at the youth level robs our society of the great lessons that sports (most especially baseball) have to offer. An athlete like Stan Musial; a sports celebrity; a true "icon" who still embodied integrity, honor, and dignity in all aspects of his life, not only as an athlete but as a husband, father, community member, and human being should be our societal role models.
    - Karl A.

  15. I just read that the funeral mass for Stan Musial will be held today at Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. I have been to the cathedral before and it is absolutely beautiful. Immediately following the mass, the funeral procession will make its way to Busch Stadium, where the family will lay a wreath at the base of the statute of Stan Musial as part of a prayer ceremony before proceeding to a private burial. What a beautiful and fitting tribute for one of baseball's and St. Louis' greatest treasures.

  16. Stan, good example for everybody as a great Player & gentleman..Talented, lots ability. He did a good job, God Bless you, (RIP)..
    G. Ortiz

  17. When I see my kids I greet them with - Wada ya say - Wada ya say. They say to me , Coach why do you always say that ? I say that in honor of one of my favorite players. Stan Musial. I tell them that I never got to see him play, I just read about his life story. You guys should read about him too. Write a book report about him in school. He was everything that was right about sports not just baseball. After you read about him you will understand why I say - Baseball is Life.
    - Kevin M.

  18. They didn't call him "The Man" for nothing. Great player and better person. He will always be part of my baseball life.