Stan Musial, 1920-2013

01.21.13 5 years ago

I’ve had Stan Musial: An American Life buried on my Amazon Wish List for longer than I can remember, beneath a neverending list of fitness equipment that I’m never going to buy and a growing pile of Blu Ray movies that I really don’t even want. I don’t know why I haven’t ordered the biography of a man who I’ve been fascinated with since I was a child, but I think it has something to do with being content with the bits and pieces I’ve picked up over the years.

While I’m not qualified to tell you what an amazing man Stan Musial was, I don’t need to mention that he was one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game of baseball, because that’s common sense. In fact, his legacy should be taught in elementary schools throughout America, in between long division and social studies, because Musial shouldn’t just be a hero to the baseball worshipping fans of St. Louis. He should be talked about with Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, even though he probably wouldn’t have wanted us to.

Musial passed away on Saturday at the age of 92, and you can’t take a step without tripping over an article or column about Musial the hero. I’ve always wondered if Musial’s legacy as the ultimate gentleman athlete had come as the result of St. Louis baseball gospel, and I’ve always been scared that someone would show up with a sledgehammer to tear down the country’s figurative monument to Stan the Man’s reputation. But no one has, and I’ll keep praying that no one will, because they sure don’t build ‘em like this guy anymore.

Like I said, I’m not qualified to write hundreds of words preaching about what an amazing man Musial was, because all I have are the stories that have been handed down through the years almost like Bible verses from the media, former Cardinals and especially my grandmother, who I believe once had quite the crush on Musial. In fact, I used to have a real problem with hoarding magazines, but after an intervention I chose to keep only one issue out of a few thousand. It was the August 2-9, 2010 edition of Sports Illustrated.

I’ve read Joe Posnanski’s story about Stan the Man several times over the past two years, and I encourage any baseball fans to just read it once. It was that article that gave me, then 31, this schoolboy dream that maybe one day I’d walk into a diner in St. Louis, see Musial enjoying a meal, ask him for an autograph and maybe hear him talk about baseball for a few seconds. Sure, I’m sad that I won’t ever get that chance now, but it’s pretty cool that so many other baseball fans did.

And for fun, here’s Musial’s appearance on What’s My Line?, when he talked about how at the age of 41, he hit .330 and was named Lyndon Johnson’s fitness adviser. I also just love the way he responded to the question about playing for a New York team. So long, Stan the Man.

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