Revered and respected.
Stan Musial, despite his death Saturday at the age of 92, remains the icon of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise.
In an era of controversy in the game, Musial remained one of baseball’s true gentlemen.
Visitation will be held Thursday from 2-8 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis. The private funeral Mass is set for Saturday and the procession will travel from there to Busch Stadium to lay a wreath at the base of the Stan Musial Statue.
“I never heard anybody say a bad word about him, ever,” Willie Mays said in a statement released by the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The baseball world had universal respect for Stan The Man, and that even includes fans of the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and other old National League rivals.
The story, told many times, goes that it was the Brooklyn fans who gave him his nickname, “Uh, oh. Here comes the man again; here comes the man.”
Musial wasn’t flashy, he wasn’t controversial, but he was darned good at what he did.
Playing for four pennant winners, three which won World Series titles, Musial set a number of marks, holding 55 records when he retired at the age of 43 in 1963 after playing in 22 seasons.
Musial’s No. 6 was the first number retired by the Cardinals, the ultimate sign of respect by the organization.
Musial wasn’t a power hitter, but could smack the long ball credibly ending with 475 home runs in his career.
Musial was the National League’s all-time leader in hits when he left the game at 3,630 with half of them coming at home and half on the road. His final hit, a single against Cincinnati in 1963, went past the Reds’ rookie second baseman, Pete Rose. Rose went on to become the career hits leader near the end of his career.
Those who never got to see Musial play during his career have heard the exploits and have seen the statues at Busch Stadium. Musial always remained close to the Cardinals after his retirement. He was general manager of the 1967 World Series champions and remained in the organization after that.
And many remembered the gregarious man who would pull out his harmonica and play tunes such as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” which he even performed at the White House.
Many probably don’t know that Musial originally was a pitcher when he was signed out of Donora, Pa. By 1940, his hitting skills were put to good use and Musial roamed the outfield when not throwing. But an injury after a fall while playing Class D ball changed his direction and Musial became a full-time hitter.
The Man was everything that baseball was supposed to be — dignity, honor and grace — the antithesis of how the game is viewed now after the recent Hall of Fame voting on the steroid-era players. If baseball is to remain America’s Pastime, it needs more Musials and less controversy.
Musial’s best season was 1948, when he led the National League in 10 categories, including batting average (.376) and RBIs (131). His 39 home runs left him one behind Johnny Mize and Ralph Kiner for the league lead. With one more dinger, he would have won the Triple Crown.
During that year, the Cardinals signed a second baseman out of Beaumont High School, Earl Weaver.
Weaver, who made his name managing the Baltimore Orioles (who had been the St. Louis Browns prior to their move) also died Saturday while on the Orioles’ fantasy cruise in the Caribbean Sea.
As Musial was one of the game’s great players, Weaver was one of its top tacticians. Weaver led the Orioles to four pennants and one World Series title between two stints as manager (1968-82 and 1985-86).
His philosophy of “pitching, defense and the three-run homer” has been followed by just about everyone and epitomizes what we would call “American League baseball.”
Weaver pioneered keeping and using situational statistics to set up favorable matchups. He also was a believer in the platoon system. Both have been copied by many. “Weaver on Strategy” is considered required reading for any prospective baseball leader.
Unlike Musial, Weaver could have a fiery side which often flared in games. He was ejected from at least 90 games while arguing with umpires. The fans usually got a lot of enjoyment from watching Weaver get into one of his heated discussions.
Weaver is revered in Baltimore, where they retired his No. 4 following his initial retirement in 1982.
Yes, Saturday certainly was a sad day for the baseball world.