Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stan the Man: A Gentleman and a Heckuva Ballplayer

Stan Musial has long been one of the most admired people in St. Louis.

Other sports stars have come and gone, and, at times, some have temporarily exceeded Musial in popularity.

But Musial has been a fixture on that imaginary list and certainly will remain so, after his death yesterday at the age of 92.

As Rick Hummel observes in the St. Louis Post–Dispatch, it was the baseball fans in Brooklyn who hung the nickname "The Man" on Musial, but the folks in St. Louis eagerly embraced it.

He was retired long before I began collecting baseball cards, which was the point when I really started following baseball, but I already knew who he was, and as I matured, I became familiar with his many achievements. He was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, clubbing 475 home runs and driving in nearly 2,000 runs. His career batting average was .331.

He was an All–star 24 times, a member of three world champion teams, a three–time MVP and a seven–time batting champion.

He was also a first–class individual.

My friend Randy, who lived in St. Louis as a child and returned as an adult, and I once posed for a photo in front of the statue of Musial that stood in front of Busch Memorial Stadium for a long time.

It is my understanding that, when the Cardinals moved into the new Busch Stadium, the statue was relocated there as well. That wouldn't surprise me. There have been many great Cardinals over the years, but none have been as revered in St. Louis as Stan the Man.

Jorge Ortiz writes in USA Today that Musial "was the perfect fit for the city that became his home and the era in which he played."

Ortiz concedes that, with his batting average, Musial would have succeeded in any major–league town in any era.

"But what set him apart from some of the game's greats was the unabashed kindness he displayed during and after his playing days," writes Ortiz, "a quality fully embraced in St. Louis."

He was the very embodiment of the middle American values I have seen in abundance on countless occasions.

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