Monday, January 21, 2013

The Man

The Man
By Cal Thomas

Baseball great Stan Musial died over the weekend. He was 92. He will be missed.

In September 2007, I was invited to make a speech to a civic group in St. Louis. I told the person who invited me I would come on one condition: that I could meet baseball great Stan Musial.

"That's no problem," he said. "We are members of the same sports club."

I forget what I said in the speech -- and the audience probably has long forgotten, too -- but I will always remember having lunch with Stan Musial.

Stan regaled me with baseball stories.

I asked him how it all began. He said when he was in high school during the Depression a baseball scout came to his hometown of Donora, Pa. The scout told Musial's father he wanted to sign him to a contract.

Musial said his father rejected the offer, telling the scout, "My son is going to college." Musial's father worked in a steel mill and never got a college education. Like most fathers, he wanted a better life for his son and believed college would be his ticket to success.

The scout left, but returned several weeks later to again ask that Stan be allowed to play professional baseball. He was rejected again. Musial says the scout then appealed to "a higher authority, my mother" and she agreed.

In 1938, Musial was signed as a pitcher to a professional baseball contract. I asked him how much they paid him. As I now recall it was about $2,000 to $3,000. With so many players of lesser skill making millions today, I didn't begrudge him selling his autograph on baseballs and memorabilia.

After injuring his arm as a minor league player, Musial was moved to the outfield and then to first base where he began to hit the ball like few left-handers ever had. He became one of the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history.

If ever there was a sports role model, Stan was one. A World War II vet and family man, Musial played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals, a rarity today when players, like interchangeable parts, are traded often or jump to other clubs for more money.

President Obama touched on Musial's character when he presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 2011. The president said then, "Stan remains to this day an icon untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you'd want your kids to emulate."

In our celebrity culture where it doesn't matter why you're famous, only that you are famous, we don't focus enough on true achievement and the untarnished. Musial's contemporaries, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, received more media attention than he did, but Stan never publicly expressed any bitterness. They were in larger media markets -- New York and Boston, respectively -- which may account for some of it, though it was in New York that Musial acquired his moniker "The Man." Sporting News reports that, "According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Musial earned 'The Man' nickname 'by (Brooklyn)

Dodgers fans for the havoc he wrought at Ebbets Field.'"

Sporting News quoted Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson: "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."

On that one day in 2007, as I had lunch with my childhood hero, I was a kid again. For me, it was better than any politician I have met or dined with. He signed a baseball for me, for free. It sits encased on a shelf in my office.

In so many ways, on and off the field, Stan Musial was, indeed, "The Man.”

Stan Musial, R.I.P.
By Aaron Goldstein on 1.19.13 @ 9:29PM

It’s been a truly sad day for baseball. First came the passing of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver.

Now St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial is gone too. He was 92.

Musial played 22 seasons, won 7 NL batting titles, collected 100 or more RBI ten times, won three NL MVPs, three World Series rings and a 24 time NL All-Star.

In all, Musial had 3,630 hits - 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road. For many years, Musial was second only to Ty Cobb on the all-time hits list. He would eventually be passed by Hank Aaron and Pete Rose.

He earned his moniker Stan the Man not from Cardinals fans but from Brooklyn Dodgers fans. Musial did so much damage against Dodger pitching the fans at Ebbets Field would say, “There goes that Man again.”

Musial was known for his sunny disposition. When asked why he smiled all the time, Stan the Man said, “If you knew you were going to hit .340 every year, you would smile too.”

In 1967, Musial served as Cardinals GM. They won the World Series that year. Two years later, Musial was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

A couple of years ago, George Vecsey released Stan Musial: An American Life. Vecsey’s biography did not do Musial justice.

In 2011, Musial was bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in probably his finest act in office.

When I think of Stan the Man, I think of when my Dad and his friends met him and other members of the Cardinals at the Polo Grounds in 1955 when a Sunday doubleheader was rained out. Radio personality Bill Stern happened upon them and before you knew it Dad and his friends were in the Cardinals clubhouse. Dad asked Musial about the wiggle in his batting stance.

To give you an idea of the reverence in which Musial is held, when the Los Angeles Angels embarked on a marketing campaign describing Albert Pujols as “El Hombre” prior to the start of last season, the ex-Cardinal said “God is the Man and there’s another Man, Stan.” Now that’s rarified company.

To read more about Stan Musial, click here.

To read another article by Cal Thomas, click here.

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