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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stan Musial; Baseball's Perfect Knight


Stan the Man

 
Has there ever in the history of major league sports and fan adulation been a more perfect union between hero and city than the bond between Stan Musial and the people of the city of St. Louis? As a child, we learn all too soon that life is a series of losses. My earliest memory of loss spins me back through the years to 1963; asking my mom what retirement was, her simple elucidation bringing tears to the eyes of a six year old.

 

I was too young to appreciate Musial the player. I have no memory of his failures. Musial’s younger teammates were the heroes of my youth, the superstars of the Cardinals crackerjack teams’ of the 1960’s: Bob Gibson, Ken Boyer and Lou Brock. I saw their human failings. Harry Carey and Jack Buck broadcast nightly into my bedroom, through the magic of my AM transistor radio, their imperfections. Boyer and Brock failed at the plate on average three of every ten at bats. I once attended a game at Old Sportsman’s Park on North Grand where Bob Gibson gave up 12 runs in the first inning. It was April, 1966 and one of the final games before the Bird’s move to the new downtown stadium. The superstars of my youth were human, capable in my eyes of periodical repudiated failures. But not "The Man." Musial will forever in my memories bat 1.000, the quintessential ideal of a young boy’s vision of never failing perfection.

 
Musial has since his retirement been held up as the lofty St. Louis civic symbol of a job well done, the retired super star, the crown jewel of the “best baseball town in America”, the perfect example of the ideals of a populace that treasures it's heroes grounded in the qualities Musial so well displayed: loyalty, humility and honor.

 
Much was made last winter of superstar Cardinal Albert Puljos’ sell out to the almighty dollar, as he bolted to a bigger paycheck in Los Angeles. Many accused “El Hombre” of turning his back on a lifetime Musial type adulation status bestowed by Cardinal Nation. I disagree. There will never be another Stan Musial. The economic logistics of today’s game has seen to that.

 
An article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 2010, commemorating Musial’s 90th birthday, told of how when playing for the Cardinals in the 1950’s, Musial, just another working stiff, took the city bus each day from his Marquette Avenue home in South St. Louis to his “job” at Sportsman’s Park. The story listed the street address of his former residence, in a neighborhood within walking distance of my own home, a part of the city that could be classified at best as nothing more than middle class. Can you imagine today Derek Jeter living up the street in a working class neighborhood and commuting to the ball park each day via public transit? Dissipated by an era dominated by the economics of media funneled millions, sadly, the days of such public access to our sports idols are gone forever.

Stan the Man, the humble superstar, a true man of the people, the likes of which we will never see again.


 

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