Special to the Tribune-Star
I’m not the only one who has sad feelings about the passing of Stan Musial. As nicknames go, he had a good one, “Stan the Man.” He had a lifetime batting average of .331, which puts him up there with all the greats who played the game.
The ironic thing, or unusual thing, about Stan Musial was he was a highly charged competitor. But he was one of the nicest guys to ever put on a uniform. Ty Cobb was downright mean. He used to stand on the top of the dugout steps and sharpen his spikes so the other team could see him. Babe Ruth had a big appetite for everything he shouldn’t have had … wine, women, and a gargantuan appetite for food. But not Stan Musial. Stan was just one whale of a nice guy. Along with that, a great baseball player.
My father graduated from high school in 1924, two years ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals’ first championship. Dad became a huge fan. That was about a decade and a half before Stan Musial put on a Cardinal uniform.
Musial was from Pennsylvania, but he made St. Louis home. He owned part of a big restaurant, and if you were a little kid you didn’t have to worry because “Stan the Man” would sign an autograph. Recently, when Albert Pujols was tearing up the league in home runs, batting averages and such, he asked the fans not to call him “El Hombre” or “The man.” The announcers and reporters did Mr. Pujols’ bidding. Pujols said, “There’s already a man in St. Louis and he’s been here a lot longer than me … and he’s already in the Hall of Fame. He is the only man, “Stan the Man.”
Musial would retire from the game in the 1960s, but he tore up the pitching after WWII in the ’50s. Most stadiums take pride in having a statue of their favorite baseball son on display. In St. Louis there are two statues of Stan Musial, which gives you an idea of how the community feels about him. It isn’t that there’s a tear because he isn’t on the field. He has been retired too long for that. It’s just that he is gone now, forever.
We probably won’t see a statue in St. Louis at the ballpark for Albert Pujols because of Albert’s decision to leave and go for the big money. It was a few million, but he has already found out he is one of many star attractions in Los Angeles. He was loved by the fans in St. Louis and it’s sad that after a 10-year stay, he couldn’t stay longer.
Stan Musial spent his entire career in a Cardinal uniform, and his nickname the press gave him was, indeed, true. Stan was “The Man.”
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.