Saturday, January 26, 2013

Remember the stance and the swing ...

They buried Stan Musial today.  Opening Day in St. Louis ( a civic holiday in every respect except legally) will never be the same.   No more Stan riding around the infield, ushering in the new baseball season.  That makes me profoundly sad.



Stan's last at-bat was in 1963.  I was three years old and I don't remember it.  But I have memories of Stan because Stan didn't leave.  He stayed with the organization and he stayed in St. Louis.  He was around.  You might see him at a restaurant.  Some people saw him at Mass.  In the 1980's when I first started working downtown I would occasionally catch glimpses of him on the street.  I saw him in the airport one time when I was returning from a business trip and he was on his way to Kansas City for the World Series, and I was struck by the fact that EVERYONE in the airport was walking past him as he rode the people-mover, telling him to "bring home a winner" just like they were talking to one of their friends. It wasn't at all like they were talking to a celebrity.

I have an autographed picture of Stan.  So does probably half of St. Louis.  He'd give out autographs to anyone who asked for them.  He was that kind of guy.

Stan was one of the greats of baseball but most of the country didn't seem to know it. From Wikipedia:

Nicknamed "Stan the Man", Musial was a record 24-time All-Star selection (tied with Willie Mays), and is widely considered to be one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.[1] He compiled 3,630 hits (ranking fourth all-time and most in a career spent with only one team). With 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road, he also is considered to be the most consistent hitter of his era.[1] He also compiled 475 home runs during his career, was named the National League's (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times, and won three World Series championship titles. Musial was a first-ballot inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
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Nearly two decades after Musial retired, baseball statistician Bill James and the sabermetrics movement began providing new ways of comparing players across baseball history.[160] In 2001, James ranked Musial the tenth-greatest baseball player in history, and the second-best left fielder of all time.[161] According to Baseball-Reference.com, he ranks fifth all-time among hitters on the Black Ink Test, and third all-time on the Gray Ink Test—measures designed to compare players of different eras.[43][162] He ranks first on Baseball-Reference's Hall of Fame Monitor Test, and is tied for second in the Hall of Fame Career Standards Test.[43] Despite his statistical accomplishments, he is sometimes referred to as the most underrated or overlooked athlete in modern American sports history.[163][164] For instance, in his analysis of baseball's under- and overrated players in 2007, sportswriter Jayson Stark said, "I can't think of any all-time great in any sport who gets left out of more who's-the-greatest conversations than Stan Musial."[163]
Well, we appreciated him.  Stan played 22 years, all with the St. Louis Cardinals.  That never happens anymore.  Players don't stay with one team anymore.  But almost as important as all those years was the fact that he stuck around after his retirement.  He was St. Louis.

The flags have been flying at half-mast this week.  Tributes have been left at the stadium next to his statue.  Today he was buried and his funeral was televised.  St. Louis will not be the same now that Stan is gone.

Goodbye Stan.  We'll miss you. 

Here's his last at-bat in 1963.  Harry Carey calls it: