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Stan Musial At 92: Still The Man

Posted on November 21, 2012 at 7:35 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
As you know, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Many of us will gather around tables with family and friends, pausing to give thanks for all that we have.  If you are a Cardinal fan, when your head is bowed, likely a passing thought of thanks will go for Stan Musial.

Stan the Man turns 92 today.  We don't see him that often, as Alzheimer's has begun its deadly work on him.  That just means that those instances when we do see him, like Game 4 of the NLCS, are that much more special.  There's rarely a dry eye in the house when Stan begins his loop around the stadium.

I went to a memorial service yesterday for a long-time church member who had died suddenly.  Person after person spoke about how you couldn't say a bad word about the man.  Not that they didn't want to because he was deceased, that you really couldn't say anything bad about him.  Having known him for a long time, I know that was the case.  He had a quiet, unassuming, uncomplaining attitude and always held other people's needs above his own.

That's the picture we get of Stan Musial as well.  Save for his spat with Joe Garagiola, which seems to be a case where Musial's honor was offended, there's basically nothing in the public record except accolades and compliments.  Opposing fan bases would cheer Musial.  He even got his nickname from the Brooklyn Dodger fans who, weary of him wearing out their team, could only come up with "Here comes that man again."  Would that be the case today?  Most likely not, at least until a farewell tour a la Chipper Jones.

Stan has been a wonderful example, a star ballplayer who never felt he was bigger than the game or the fans that watched it.  A generous person who gave of his time, his knowledge, and his money.  Granted, some of his hitting advice didn't have the effect that maybe the questioner wanted.  A rookie once asked for a tip and here's what he got:

"If I want to hit a grounder, I hit the bottom third of the ball.  If I want to hit a line drive, I hit the middle third, and if I want to hit a pop fly, I hit the top third."

Simple enough for Stan, a little more difficult for a mere mortal.

Stan is a national treasure, both for the United States and for Cardinal Nation.  It's no surprise that the Stand for Stan campaign was a huge hit in St. Louis and effective enough to get the attention of the president.  Being that President Obama in some ways cut into the time for Stan to be front and center during the 2009 All Star Game, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was a nice gesture.  (I am honestly surprised the last campaign didn't see political commercials in Missouri saying, "This man hogged Stan Musial's national spotlight.  Show him what you think of that.")

This time last year, we still thought we might see another Stan Musial.  Most of us thought Albert Pujols was going to return and keep up his assault on baseball history.  He'd be one of the rare ones, to be a superstar fully formed and stay with one team his whole career.

That didn't happen and, even if Albert had stayed and put up those numbers, he had too many critics, too many people telling unflattering stories to ever be quite Stan Musial.  Would Musial have come off worse in today's 24-7 full-fledged multimedia attack?  Perhaps.  Perhaps some of the stories that don't paint Musial in the best light were lost to time because no one covered them then.

I don't think so, though.  Some people seem to revel in trying to take legends and heroes down, but nobody's been effective in denting Musial's armor.  If the old saying of "where there's smoke, there's fire" is true, then the absence of smoke must mean an absence of fire.  Musial really was the good, honest, decent man that we've heard so much about growing up and he's got the coworkers and the random encounters to prove it.  I think the quote from Mike Matheny may say it best: "Maybe he doesn't know he's Stan Musial."

We don't know how well Stan is getting along these days.  We know he seems frail when he's at the ballpark and Alzheimer's is a very difficult thing to deal with.  We know that he'll spend this birthday without the love of his life, Lil, who passed away earlier this year.  Time is an undefeated champion and eventually we all lose that bout.

For today, though, we still have Stan Musial among us.  Give a double helping of thanks for that when you sit down tomorrow.  Happy birthday, Stan!

In quick other news:

--St. Louis added four to its 40-man roster yesterday.  Eric Fornataro, Michael Blazek, Keith Butler and Kevin Siegrist were the lucky ones.  I'm not enough of a prospect maven to be real familiar with any of those names, but all are pitchers, showing that the depth of arms in the system doesn't stop with Carlos Martinez.

--What may be more surprising than the names being added were the names that didn't come off.  Barret Browning and Eduardo Sanchez had been rumored to be on the chopping block as it were, but both were spared.  I figured Sanchez would be--he's too young and got some good stuff if he can control it--but the organization's actions with Browning seemed to indicate that they weren't going to bring him back.  I'm glad to see that he might just make it after all.

--Apparently Rafael Furcal's elbow ligament is completely healed, meaning that the shortstop should be ready to go Opening Day with no problem.  There's still a portion of the fanbase--of which I'd count myself a member--who is still pretty hesitant.  It's good that there's some medical data to back up the idea that Furcal is healthy, but with the way Cardinal injuries go, until we see Furcal on the field, I don't think we are going to be fully on board with this.  Hopefully this won't stop Mozeliak from coming up with some veteran backups, at least, because there's no telling just how long that ligament may last.

--The Cardinals signed a couple of minor leaguers as well, though players unlikely to see much time in St. Louis.  Justin Christian played for the Giants briefly last year, while Jamie Romak was actually in the system after coming over from the Royals during last season.

--Not really surprising that all of the arbitration-eligible players are going to get a contract offer.  You could make the case for nontendering Marc Rzepczynski, but there is such a lack of left-handed relief in the organization.  Hopefully he can turn that around a bit and be a little more like what we saw in 2011.

--There's still a week and a half to go in the voting for the Cardinal Blogger Awards.  I'll have my personal picks up sometime next week, but you can let your voice be heard by filling out this form.

--And, finally, the Burton History Trees are starting to ship.  If you've not gotten yours, I'd suggest doing so today or tomorrow, when the 25% off pre-order price is still in effect and you can combine that with the 10% off code c70.  The code will work until the end of the year, though, so you can still get some discount even after Black Friday.  For an idea of how big the tree is and how it looks, I've attached a picture that includes some great helpers.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Safe travels and we'll talk again soon!

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