I knew someday I would have to type this. I admit I didn’t want to, but still I knew I must. Stan Musial died today. He was 92 and the hero of every male in my family older than I.
It’s difficult to know how to define a legend. Is it the 3630 hits? Is it that he got 1815 at home and 1815 on the road? Maybe. Is it all the batting titles (7)? How about the 1599 walks versus 696 strike outs? That’s part of it. Could it be the 6134 total bases? Or should we talk about the 177 triples, all after 1920? That’ll work.
He was the consummate player. He was a quiet man who led by example. He supported Jackie Robinson and helped Bob Gibson and Curt Flood ease their way into the Cardinals clubhouse.
He led his team to three World’s Championships and a fourth National League title. And he did it with the most unorthodox stance anyone ever saw. He hurt his arm in the minors which cost him his pitching career (he started as a pitcher). He moved to the outfield and became a star.
He played the harmonica. He won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was the greatest Cardinal ever.
Carl Erskine told a story about how to pitch to Musial. He said you threw your best pitch then went to back up third. Preacher Roe liked to say that your best bet was to throw four wide ones then try to pick him off first. That’s real respect.
I have no idea if there is an afterlife or not. I have no idea what it’s like if there is one. But if there is one, I’m sure that Musial is already giving batting tips to the men in my family because I know they were at the gates of whatever whereafter there is waiting to greet him.
He was so good that the fans in Brooklyn used to complain “Here comes that man again.” That got him the nickname “Stan the Man.” That he certainly was.
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