Saturday, January 26, 2013

Q: Who was "The Man?"

A: Stan Musial.

Stan Musial died last weekend, and with his passing may mean one of the last soft spoken sports heroes who did his talking by excelling on the field. No chest pounding, no braggadocio predictions, no threats, just a study in professional class.

Anyone who had the pleasure of seeing Stan Musial play baseball saw how much pleasure he got out of the game. This even extended to the work-out pepper games where he had fun throwing curves and sometimes knuckle balls back to his teammates, and then laughing to see them scramble.

Young Cardinal fans today who never saw Stan play revere his memory because he is still the Number One Cardinal. It would be difficult to explain, however, about those years of 1941 to l963 and what he meant not only to the state of Missouri, but the entire Heartland, the mid-south, and the deep south.

Stan Musial was our knight-errant on a noble quest against the big eastern newspapers whose trumpet was louder because of size. In the end they finally had to recognize his remarkable ability - something we knew all the time.

In some ways Stan was an anomaly because he was a kid from Pennsylvania.

But when he started tearing up the National League St. Louis adopted him as if he bad been born on the roller coaster out at Forest Park's Highlands. It was a mutual adoption because Stan loved St. Louis, and was their number one citizen right up to his death.

It is doubtful if Hollywood will ever make a movie about the life of Stan Musial.

Stan left all his flair and flash on the field. A great family man, his idea of life on the road was a good steak, a movie, and maybe a highball.

Along the way Stan made friends everywhere. ESPN once made a special about him, ending by saying he may have been the most-liked ballplayer ever in the Major Leagues. Color blind, he welcomed Jackie Robinson to the National League. Upon Stan's death Willy Mays said, " I never heard anyone say a bad thing about him." Toward the end of his life Mickey Mantle regretted that he had not conducted his life as Stan had done.

It is pointless to echo the many baseball accomplishments of Stan Musial. All you have to do is look in the record books. Stan was a three-sport high school star in basketball, football, and baseball. He was offered a basketball scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh but chose professional baseball instead, and reported to the Cardinal's minor league franchise at Williamson, West Virginia. The rest is history.

Stanley Frank Musial had several nicknames other than "Stan." His prime time speed gave him the name " The Donora Greyhound." It was a speed that earned him 6 triple's crowns in the National League. Brooklyn fans made him "Stan the Man," bemoaning how he destroyed their pitching: Here comes that "Man" again.

His teammates and opponents liked to call him "Stash."

Dodger announcer, Vince Scully, once said of Stan: "How great was Stan Musial?" "He could take your breath away." Pitcher, Preacher Roe, said one time the way to get Musial was to walk him and then pick him off first base. Another pitcher said, "I throw him my best stuff, and then back up third base."

Imagine being on a business trip to Cincinnati in the summer of 1963.

The Cardinals are in town, and have a Sunday double-header with the Reds.

So out to the ballpark you go. You take a seat along the first base line.

In the first game every time Stan Musial comes to the plate the crowd gives him a standing ovation because he has already announced this will be his last year.

He goes 0 for 4 in the first game.

You are bitterly disappointed because at that time he was not always playing both ends of a double-header. But there is his name in the line-up for the second game.

He gets a couple of early hits. Cardinal pitcher, Bob Gibson, is pitching a shut-out masterpiece, but being equaled by the Cincinnati pitcher. The top of the 9th arrives, and you know Stan will be coming up. Sensing that this might be the last time you will see him in person, you move to a stand-up position behind the screen at home plate.

The Cardinals get a couple of men on. Stan then pounds a 3-run homer, and

Gibson ices the game with a 3 to 0 win!!!

What a memory to be cherished!!!!

The Answer Man will appear on occasion in the Daily Dunklin Democrat, and will provide answers to various and sundry questions about local people, etc. Readers are invited to submit their queries to The Answer Man by e-mailing them to ganderson@dddnews.com.

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