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Stan the Man
Sunday, 07 November 2010 18:46
November 6, 2010 — It matters not if you are a fan, player or follower of baseball. The sport whose creation and early development that was the brainchild of a Civil War survivor named Abner Doubleday has become so much a part of American history that it cannot be ignored, even by someone with no interest in the sport. It’s part of our psyche, and its travel through time mirrors to some extent, ours.

Over the years baseball has produced many tremendous athletes – men who have done wondrous things on or around the marked-off diamond that is at the center of the playing field of baseball. Our early heroes, men like Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Rabbit Maranville, Babe Ruth, Hank Greenberg and Lou Gehrig, gave way to those who represented the next generation of greats — such as Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson, Warren Spahn, and my all-time favorite, Stan Musial. These legends have all since stepped aside for those playing the game today.

Stanley Frank Musial will turn 90 this month. Growing up in Missouri I began to be aware of him when baseball came into my world, when I was about six. He was already known as “Stan the Man” when I began following the Cardinals, a nickname widely thought to have come from the borough of Brooklyn, in the confines of Ebbets Field, where the pre-Los Angeles Dodgers played. Their fans were known to remark when the Cards were visiting and Musial came to bat “Oh, no, here comes that man again” – because Stan owned Ebbets Field, spraying singles, doubles, triples and home runs in his efforts to help his St. Louis Cardinals come out the winner.

When I was about 7 years of age, I got to meet The Man himself. Accompanied by my Uncle (who knew someone in the Cardinals organization) and my father, I was introduced to the Cardinal locker room, located in the bowels of the already venerable Sportsman’s Park, where the Cards and the Browns (St. Louis’s American League team, who later moved on to become the Baltimore Orioles) had been playing baseball for close to 40 years.

The smell of the mixture of sweat, hot water, soap and men’s cologne was like ambrosia to me, and as I looked up at the men standing and moving about, talking and changing into street clothes after having defeated Robin Roberts and the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1, Stan himself, wearing dress pants, regular shoes and socks, but no shirt, his dark hair still glistening from having just taken a shower, walked toward us, stopped, smiled, and leaned down to shake my hand.

Having seen his picture in newspapers, magazines and in the movie newsreels offered in those days before the feature came on, I had never heard his voice. But big and handsome as he was, I figured he would have a deep, radio announcer’s sound coming from those smiling lips. However, on that special evening in St. Louis so many years ago, when he opened his mouth and spoke to me, I was greeted with that high-pitched nasal Pennsylvania accent that Stan had grown up with.

It didn’t matter; it was still love at first sight, and I will never forget the attention given to me that night by this superstar. As we all know now, I was not the only one paid respect to by this baseball icon; he treated everyone that way, and to this day is universally adored not only for his exploits on the field, but in the quiet and exemplary way he has lived his life, giving back in so many ways to those who helped put him in the spotlight.

I know there are many of you out there who send, along with me, our best wishes to one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and a sweet man – Stan Musial.

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