(St. Louis – May 9, 2010 – originally written May 20, 2008)
On Sunday, May 18th 2008, The St. Louis Cardinals played a thrilling game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Concluding the first series that these two have ever played. This day would be very special, and not just because the Cardinals would win in walk-off fashion for the second day in a row. This day, belonged more to one man, and rightfully so. This day belonged to arguably the greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan “The Man” Musial.
Musial played his entire career here in St. Louis. Amassing over 3600 hits, nearly 500 homeruns, and hitting more triples than any other Cardinal has ever done. He played superb defense as well, which is more than evident when you glance at his career fielding percentage of .989. He committed only 142 errors in 22 years. That is remarkable. He played a few positions as well. He played the majority (1,890) of his games as an outfielder but was not against moving around. He played both corner outfield spots and also moved to 1st base for a few games (1,016).
The success never went to his head however. By most accounts, “Stan The Man” was never cocky or big-headed. He knew what his talents were but never let success overshadow his humility.
As a member of the Cardinals, Musial helped secure three World Series Titles ( ’42, ’44, ’46 ). He made four World Series appearances and was selected to play in the mid-summer classic a record 24 times (records shared with Hank Aaron and WIllie Mays). He won seven National League Batting Titles and was the only man in the 20th Century to win three Most Valuable Player awards.
“I believe the joy of getting paid as a man to play a boy’s game kept me going longer than many other players,” said Musial, who played more games for one team (3,026) than anyone else in professional baseball’s first full century. “Whether I was getting $100 a month in Class D or $100,000 a season in the majors, I never lost the feeling that I had the best way in the country to make a living, meager or plentiful.”
Musial retired following the 1963 season, but was not gone for long as he returned in 1967 and served as GM for one season. Helping the Cardinals win the 1967 World Series. He then stepped down and was replaced by Bing Devine.
At the time of his retirement in 1963, Musial held 17 major league, 29 National League, and 9 All-Star game records. A statue of Musial was erected outside of Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri in 1968, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1969. Stan’s number 6 was also retired during the dedication ceremony for the statue in 1968 as only the 2nd number to ever be retired by the Cardinals. The statue is inscribed with a quote from former baseball commissioner Ford Frick: “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
Prior to the game on May 18th, Stan was honored for his accomplishments by the mayor, former teammates and managers and also gave a short speech. The Cardinals have announced plans for a “Stan Musial Plaza” and have also renamed part of Eighth Street “Stan Musial Drive”
I watched the stirring ceremony during which the fans showered the Hall-of-Famer and living legend with applause. The famous batting stance still gives many fans shivers, regardless of how fragile it looks. He feigns swings to the satisfaction of most Cardinals fans. During the course of the game, fans showed such kindness and gratitude. Nothing echoed that sentiment as much as when an young boy caught a ball tossed into the stands by Ryan Ludwick only to hand if off to a younger girl. What a moment. A moment right there that was in all honesty bigger than what happened on the field. Those little moments in which we see things like this, make St. Louis a great sports city. The fans are truly the best and this indeed is “Baseball Heaven”.
So let us remember and thank all of our players of the past. Let us honor them along with the Greatest Cardinal of them all…
Thank you all…and thank you Stan “The Man” Musial..