Posts Tagged ‘Stan Musial’

Rest in Peace, Stanley and Earl

January 20, 2013

 

Stan Musial

Stan Musial

Dear Stanley and Earl,

Yesterday, January 19, 2013, you each caught the same flight to Hall of Fame Heaven.

We shall miss both of you, but we shall also thank the both of you forever!

Rest in Peace to the two newest stars in the night skies of our fondest baseball dreams!

Affectionately,

The Baseball Fans of the World

Earl Weaver

Earl Weaver

Goodnight, Lillian Labash Musial!

May 9, 2012

Vincent painted it. Their true love lived it.

They were Depression era Catholic kids, the children of working class immigrant families, growing up in the mining town hills of a little town called Donora in western Pennsylvania. They fell in love in high school and never looked back.

Neither had any other loving partner before they found each other. And neither had anyone else after they met, for sure. They were simply Stan and Lillian, together continuously for seventy-five years total, and for nearly seventy-two years since their 1940 marriage, through Thursday of last week, May 3, 2012, the day when Lillian Labash Musial departed from this earth in death at the age of 91.

Nor everyone finds true love; and not everyone who finds it gets to keep it. Some lose it to the ignorance of youth and all that confusion over the difference between love and lust that often gets in the way. Such is the way of the runaway ego. Only the humble get to recognize the truth and settle early or late for what is really good and genuine. Everyone else gets to get lost in their own ego needs to make love and life what they each need it to be – and to fight accepting that true love and respect for self and others is the real foundation and core of everything that really matters.

Stan and Lillian had it right from the start.

Stan and Lillian apparently didn’t have to think about it to get it right. They had it in the correct light from an early age on, recognizing that all those hits, baseball accomplishments, fame, and money that later came upon them were not what was most important in life. Their love for family, and for each other, was everything – and far and away, more important to their personal happiness and peace together than all of Stan Musial’s worldly success.

God rest your soul, Lillian Labash Musial. And God bless you too, Stanley. May your remaining time on earth be now measured, not by the clock, but by the faith that the day is coming when you and Lillian will be together again. In the meanwhile, and forever, you will continue to be a hero to a few million of us out here, whether you want to be – or not – as one who knows how to live life by the true winds of human nature.

Thank God for placing Stan and Lillian Musial down here in the middle of us all. The world was a better place because of them.

Two Musial Bios: Stewart Over Vecsey

January 25, 2012

Stan Musial with former coach Chuck Schmidt with daughter enjoy day at the beach in early 1940s ST trip.

Just finished reading the earliest of two recent biographies of Stan Musial, “Stan The Man: The Life and Times of Stan Musial” (2010) by Wayne Stewart. I had read the other, “Stan Musial: An American Life” (2011) by George Vecsey a couple of months ago.

Both writers had taken upon themselves a daunting challenge. It’s very hard to write a fascinating book about a popular, accomplished, good citizen, and already well-known athlete that will hold the readers’ interest for very long – and no baseball player in history fits that bill of difficulty any better than Stan Musial. Even Babe Ruth, the greatest bio object in baseball attracts new readers to new books about him. Because of the Babe’s character, people will read another treatment of his life to get either a new take on his famous past sins – or maybe get unlucky and read of something new that’s been unearthed.

Not so Musial. It all comes back as “modest man … the guy next door … a smile and a handshake for everyone … and he loved and took care of his mother … never cheated n his wife … was a great dad and role model … best teammate ever …. always willing to do whatever was best for the team … never put on airs around ordinary folk … and in business, was as honest as the day is long … even got to be close friends with Pope John Paul II as a very active practicing (and famous) Polish-American Catholic.

How many pages can a writer roll with that one and still hold his or her audience?

Stewart and Vecsey both did credible jobs – because of their abilities as researchers and writers – and because I really wanted to read what they had to say about my favorite active major leaguer from my post World War II childhood.

I didn’t really learn a lot of new things about Stan’s public performance, but I found Wayne Stewart’s trail on the factual unfolding of Musial’s personal life, from childhood to old age, just about the most complete I’ve ever read, and right down to a blow-by-blow unnecessary description of the deterioration in Musial’s physical health through 2010 on his way to age 90.

George Vecsey spent too much time trying to analyze Musial’s speech patterns for some fresh light on the inner soul of this seemingly perfect man. Maybe due to the fact that I come from the primary field of behavioral analysis in my lifelong “day job,” I have an aversion to excessive attention from writers who turn on a subject with a paraphrasing “AHA! The subject is smiling when he should be crying.”

Don’t go there, fellas – especially if you go there only armed with something you heard from Dr. Phil. It isn’t fair to your subject.

Vecsey exposed his writer’s expertise as a speech analyst on page 41 when, talking of a Musial childhood speech issue, he wrote:

“Musial would retain a trace of a stammer into his adult life, sometimes speaking fast in the local accent of his childhood, sometimes using familiar mantras – whaddayasay-whaddayasay, wunnerful-wunnerful – as  a defense mechanism, to soften having to speak seriously.”

Thank you, Dr. Vecsey, but we could have gone all day without reading that.

In the end, both writers paraded out the narrative, but personally found more enjoyment in the fact-centered linear account of Stewart.

In the end, I do always enjoy reading how mathematically it worked out that Stan Musial proved the even-steven quality of his hitting at home and on the road.  He finished his 22-season career (1941-1963) with a ,331 BA, 475 HR, and 1,951 RBI. His 3,630 career hits came evenly. He nailed 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road.

The day I met Stan Musial, May 1996.

Stan Musial: Great from the Git-Go

September 30, 2010

Stan Musial (L) relaxes at beach with friends during spring training 1942.

How times have changed. Back in the winter of 1940-41, a young pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated a Class D season pitching record of 18-8 and a batting average of .311 by going home to his little birthplace in the country at season’s end to stock and sack groceries at a local food store. Of course, he did. The kid was only 20 years old and much in need of that off-season job income.

That kid quickly grew to be the man – Stan “The Man” Musial, one of the greatest examples of a great pitching prospect forced by early arm injury and an even louder talking bat into make the conversion from the mound to everyday action as a position player.

From 1941 forward through 1963, the corkscrew hunching lefty would torment National League pitching with a hitting barrage that would easily carry him on a no-brainer path to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 22 big league seasons, Musial would win 7 NL batting titles and hit .331 for his career with 3,630 total MLB hits, 725 doubles, 177 triples, 425 home runs, 1,951 runs batted in, and 6 slugging average titles. We could go on and on, but the picture on Musial is already clear. He was a great producer from the very start of his career.

Stan Musial with Chuck Schmidt at spring training 1954.

In his 22 MLB seasons, Musial hit over .300 on 17 occasions. He won 3 MVP awards. He played in 4 World Series. And he played in 24 All Star Games. His 1969 induction into the Hall of Fame was anti-climatic to a foregone conclusion. The guy belonged nowhere short of baseball’s top rung of greatest hitters – and his outfield and first base play in the field was not too shabby either.

Two factors fail to show up clearly in most straight statistical looks at the career of Stan Musial, but much of the man’s true character and early ability leaks out in the above article I received yesterday from Bill Rogers, a St. Louis Browns friend in St. Louis. The little column from Springfield, Missouri back in 1941 speaks to  how good “The Man’s” hitting was from early on – and the little comment about his off-season job in Donora, PA as a grocery clerk speaks humbly for his lack of ego about these God-given abilities. The man just got up each morning and went out and did what he needed to do – and what he was capable of doing – and that included stocking grocery shelves because he needed the money as well as knocking the covers off baseballs because he had the ability to do so.

Stan Musial and Yours Truly, St. Louis, 2002.

I was privileged to meet Stan Musial back in 1996 when I attended an annual banquet in St. Louis honoring former members of the old St. Louis Browns. I’ve since seen him several additional times at these same functions, although they are no longer being planned on the same level. Time and the loss in great numbers of the old Browns has changed everything except for the inevitable conclusion that finally falls upon all human endeavor. But it was fun while it lasted.

That first time I met Musial was dumbfounding. I was alone on an elevator in the banquet hotel, heading for a fan afternoon reception for the old Browns. All of a sudden, the door opens on a floor and a man enters to join me as the only other rider.

Here I am. Little Billy McCurdy from the Houston End. A guy who lives to find a rare Stan Musial baseball card. Now. Here I am again. Grown up and older Bill McCurdy. Riding alone on an elevator with my greatest baseball childhood hero – and I can’t even speak. I don’t want to put “The Man” through one of those Goofy-like, “Gawrsh, you’re Stan Musial, aren’t you?” moments that I’m sure he’s been through a gazillion times. But I also don’t want to seem stupid or disrespectful by ignoring him totally.

As the elevator door opens on our reception floor destination, I settle for a smiling nod and eye contact statement of “Hi, Stan!” It felt OK. And I later got a photo with him, plus his autograph on a baseball. By this time, everybody was doing it.

Over the years that followed, I learned that Stan Musial was as nice and down-to-earth friendly as anyone could be. Whether he actually remembered me from year to year, I can’t say, but he always behaved as though he did. He was as friendly toward me as my old Polish-ancestry baseball coach at St. Christopher’s back in the early 1950s. I will always remember his kindness as much as I do his greatness.

If you pray, keep Stan Musial in your prayers from here on. He turns 88 on November 21st, but he’s in frail health these days. When we lose him, we’re not getting another like him. They aren’t making any more Stan Musials in the 21st century.

Have a nice day too. It’s good to be back. I can’t guarantee I’ll be writing another daily blog for a while, but I will give what I do write here my best shot, as time and energy allows.

Stand for Stan!

June 10, 2010

Back Stan Musial for the Medal of Freedom Award!

St. Louis people and the St. Louis Cardinals have organized a campaign that many others of us could stand to support just as well. “Stand for Stan” is all about getting President Obama to recognize the great Hall of Fame former Cardinal Stan Musial for all of his off-the-field financial and quiet service contributions over the years to so many worthy causes of aid to people, especially to children. The whole effort is best summarized in this open letter from Cardinal President William O. DeWitt, Jr.  to President Barack Obama:

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals, I would like to strongly endorse Stan Musial for the Presidential Medal of Freedom to honor his lifetime of achievement and service.

Not only is Stan Musial one of the greatest players to play the game of baseball, he is also an extraordinary American deserving of the nation’s highest civilian honor. Attached you will find a document that we have prepared that thoroughly makes the case for why Stan Musial is deserving of a Medal of Freedom, as well as support letters from both our United States Senators and the Governor of Missouri. In the coming days, you should also be receiving additional support letters from various members of our regional Congressional delegation.

Stan Musial’s baseball accomplishments are legendary. Stan compiled a .331 lifetime batting average, with 3,630 hits, 475 home runs, and 1,951 RBIs during his twenty-two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Stan held 17 Major-League records, 29 National League records and nine All-Star Game records at the time of his retirement in 1963. Stan is one of only three players to amass over 6,000 total bases in his career (the other two are Hank Aaron and Willie Mays). During his entire playing career, including 3,026 regular-season, 23 World Series and 24 All-Star Games, Stan was never ejected from a game by an umpire – a mark of his great sportsmanship and self-discipline.

While Stan’s baseball accomplishments are enough to make him worthy of joining his contemporary baseball Medal of Freedom winners Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, his off the field heroics over a lifetime make him especially deserving.

Stan served in the Navy during World War II, was chairman of President Lyndon Johnson’s Presidents’ Council on Physical Fitness from 1964 to 1967, acted as an unofficial emissary to Poland and for generations he has quietly donated his money and his time to thousands of charitable and community causes, particularly those dealing with children.

Throughout his life, Stan has never sought recognition for his good works. His happiness comes from doing the right thing and bringing joy to others. While Stan does not know of our efforts to nominate him for this honor, we respectfully request your consideration as Stan has been a true role model – exemplifying the humility, grace and generosity we so desperately need to see in our American sports heroes. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

William O. DeWitt Jr.

For years I was an annual attendee of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society's banquets in St. Louis and got to see Stan Musial there on several occasions. He was as gentle and friendly to us ordinary people as he was to his pals on the old Browns clubs.

Stan Musial possessed a modest self-effacing sense of humor about the things he did for others, never bringing them up on his own except to make light of his actual contributions. Over the years, Stan did a lot for older people in nursing homes, but he used these real morale-boosting services to the elderly to make fun of himself. Here’s what I mean:

Stan played the harmonica. He even organized his own harmonica trio to go with him as performers at nursing homes in the St. Louis area.

“We all loved playing the harmonica,” Stan said. “Unfortunately for the older people and other shut-ins, we decided to take our talents out on them,” he added with a great big Musial smile.

“On these musical occasions at the nursing homes,” Stan said, “the staff would usually gather the residents in a large room; line ’em up in chairs and wheel chairs in front of us; and let us play”

“That was fine with us,” Stan added, “except I had this habit of closing my eyes while I played. I just got so involved in my music that I wanted to just close my eyes while we were performing and just hear the sounds myself.”

“The old folks cured me of that habit,” Stan concluded. “One time we finished a long number and I then opened my eyes to see if I could conclude from the people’s expressions if they liked our music.”

“They all had their eyes closed.”

If you were a fan of Stan Musial years ago, check out the “Stand for Stan” campaign and sign the petition of support for presidential action on the Medal of Freedom Award. I can’t think of any other previously overlooked person from the world of baseball that is more deserving. Besides, if the great Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio were both deserving of this signature award, which they were, so is fellow Hall of famer and military service veteran Stan Musial.

Here’s the link. Simply copy, cut, and paste it to your address line – or else, go to Cardinals.Com at MLB.Com for further information on the Stand for Stan campaign.:

http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/stl/fan_forum/standforstan_index.jsp?partnerId=ed-3661971-141530142

Have a nice day, folks, and remember too: You don’t have to be a Cardinal fan to be a Stan Musial admirer. When it came down to who this man really was as an exceptional player, an outstanding  person, and a genuine American spirit, the man from Donora, Pennsylvania was right up there with the very best, just quiet on the need for public recognition that some others campaign to receive.

Stand for Stan. –  It’s time that America duly and fully honored the Quiet Man of Baseball.