I’m 70, grew up in STL in the 60’s, Mantle, DiMaggio, Maris, Banks and others were godlike, but all were relegated to also-rans, Musial was, and is, Stan the Man. Retired from the Army, I was at a seminar in Houston. My flight back to STL was through Dallas and I had a brief time to traverse the airport to catch my connecting flight. I was running as fast as I could, paying attention to little, and rounded a corner and knocked this old guy to the ground. As hurried as I was I could not just leave him there and helped him up. IT WAS STAN THE MAN. I apologized multiple times, knowing who he was, probably incoherently. I sure he thought I was some kind of idiot savant. My only meeting with Mr. Musial was to have knocked him down and then babbled. I pray to God he now knows and understands.
I wasn’t a shining star as a teenager. Regrettably I was a kid who lied, caused trouble, and was disrespectful to my peers, teachers, and family. The only thing that I respected was the game of baseball. My history teacher, a student of the game, knew that. After another trip to the principal’s office one day, he approached me and asked me “Dustin you’re a Cardinals fan right?” Quickly I replied yes. “So you must know who Stan Musial is, right?” “No,” I said. To which Mr. Olsen replied, “that’s surprising because he’s the greatest Cardinal and one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, and I suggest you look him up.” Later that day I searched his name on the internet. And he was right! I saw Musial’s impressive stats, championships, MVPs, and All Star games. I also read articles about his character. How he would sign autographs at games for whoever wanted one. He would spend time at the local hospitals visiting sick children before games. Stan even sacrificed his 1945 season to serve in the Navy during WWII and was still elected to the Hall of Fame 24 years later. For this and many other reasons, players and fans alike called him “The Man.” And as if I needed more, I couldn’t help but notice that Stan and I share the same birthday. November 21st.
So at 14 years old, feeling inspired, I took a good look at myself and said “I want to be like The Man!” Stan continued to inspire me after that day when he was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. And even after his passing in 2013, I continue to learn what kind of man I strive to be from the man I have looked up to for numerous years.
Today I work at a non-profit helping kids improve school attendance and academic engagement as well as coaching baseball during the summers. I look at what my life has become, and I can’t help but be thankful for my history teacher, Mr. Olsen, and thankful for the life and character of Stan “The Man” Musial.
On July 4th, 1949, my dad drove my mom, sister, brother, and me to Wrigley Field to the double-header between the Cardinals and the Cubs. After the game, we waited outside the park as I wanted to get Stan Musial’s autograph. Finally, after a very long wait, Stan and Red Schoendienst came out of the player’s gate and quickly headed toward a cab. I was ten years old and too shy to step in their path and ask for an autograph. So my mother grabbed my autograph book out of my hands, stepped in front of Stan and said “You have to sign this for my son, because we came all the way from out of town to get your autograph.” Stan Musial signed the book and then rushed for the cab where Red Schoendienst was waiting for him. On the way home, my mother surmised that Stan has given her the autograph because he may have thought she was a crazy woman. She knew that just a couple of weeks before that a woman had shot a Phillies player. We laughed all the way back to our hometown, Gary, Indiana. Note: On June 15, 1949,Ruth Steinhagen shot Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus at Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Eddie Waitkus recovered and went on to playin the 1950 World Series. I am 81 years old and that autograph is still one of my most prized possessions. Years later, I got to meet Stan Musial, tell him this story, and have my picture taken with him.
I had an old military issue Musial Model bat years ago. I took it out to the Stan The Man office to drop it off. I was handing it to the secretary when Stan walked in. He immediately took it in his hand and got in his batting stance. He said it sure feels like one of his bats. The secretary asked Stan how much he should charge me. Stan asked her if Dick (His Agent) was there. She said no. Stan told me $20. He signed it and I thanked him . As I was walking down the hall , I heard the door open and it was Stan. He motioned for me to come over to him. He looked at me and said “Thanks for buying the secretary lunch” He slapped me on the back and just giggled and laughed. It was a wonderful experience for me.
I’ve written about this a few times before. He was my idol at a young age. When I was about 5 or 6 years-old, I wrote him fan letters. We were living on Kauai (Hawaii) at the time. But, “just in case” I always included my phone number and address. One day, I was elated to receive an 8 1/2″ by 11″ glossy, autographed picture of him. Once, when I was 9, we were in St. Louis. My Dad and I went to Stan & Biggies restaurant. I brought his baseball card and a baseball for him to autograph “just in case.” At dinner, I kept looking around. Finally the head waiter asked us if anything was wrong. Toward the end of the meal, in walked Stan. He went straight to the bar, had a word with the bartender and came straight to our table. We spoke, he signed autographs, and shook my hand – I swore I’d never wash it again (a promise I kept for a couple days). It never occurred to me at the time that his being there was pre-arranged. A year later, again we were in St. Louis. I read in the paper that his son (or some close family member) was having a wedding reception on a certain date. I immediately assumed he would be having the reception at Stan & Biggies. I immediately began lobbying to go to Stan & Biggies that night. Sure enough, Stan was seated at the head of a large table that night. I lassoed my cousin and we went up to him, I gave him a ceramic dish i made for him. Although I interrupted his good time and his meal, he was extremely gracious and receptive to me. To this day, I don’t know if this was pre-arranged. A year or so later the Honolulu rotary club had a luncheon in his honor (he was on Oahu promoting Little League). I went with my Dad (by that time we had moved to Oahu). When we walking up to to luncheon we saw Stan walking alone to the luncheon. We caught up with him. Being full of youthful verve, I reminded him that I twice met him at Stan & Biggies. He was so gracious that he acted as though he remembered me. At the luncheon, speaker after speaker extolled Stan’s greatness. He spoke last. When he spoke, he seemed genuinely embarrassed by all the fuss. He immediately began talking about others. He even mentioned meeting me in St. Louis. His kindness and graciousness had a strong and lasting impact on me. It gave me a positive attitude. He was a great man!
A friend’s mom had suite tickets so we were waiting for the elevator when Stan walked up to get on. The usher told us to step back and we would get the next one after Mr. Musial. He got on, looked at us and said “let those 2 boys and that young lady on, I don’t think they will try to hurt me, will you boys?” We both shook our heads no and he talked the whole ride. It was something that I will always remember. Not only a great player but a great person!
I was fortunate enough to attend induction weekend at Cooperstown in 1999. I was in attendance with a friend who was in publishing. We able to be in the Otesaga resort Hotel in the evening after the inductions in the lower level and Musial started entertaining everyone in attendance, mostly HOF’ers and other baseball personalities with his harmonica and jokes directed at other players in attendance. It was such a great evening to see all the players cutting up and laughing.
Stan was a Scorpio by one day. And very nice to kids. My grandkids have copies of Stan and I. We had been speaking of timing for hitting the spitter. He took advice well. (see photo)
I am a basketball referee and I was refereeing a grade school game at Villa Duchesne Oak Hill on a Saturday morning. Stan was there watching his granddaughter. I didn’t recognize him at first but after asking some students who were keeping score they confirmed to me it was him. I was scared to death to try to say hi to him but he got a huge kick out of me coming over to see him and could not have been nicer. Moment I will never forget for sure.
Stan and Ken Griffey Jr., both from Donora, Pennsylvania, share the same birthday. In 1966, my friend and I attended our first game at Busch Stadium II. We were walking toward the steps when I saw a blue Cadillac with license plate 3000. I say to my buddy, ”Hurry up, that’s Stan The Man’s car.” We were approaching the entrance, when an adult places a hand on my shoulder. Blinded by the sunshine, my first thought was that we are getting kidnapped and my mother is going to kill me. It was Stan Musial, who said, “Boys, you never have to run out of my way.” Fast forward to May 13th, 1983. I am covering the Cardinals and see Stan in the press box, remind him it is the 25th anniversary of his 3000th hit at Wrigley Field, and I interviewed my hero.
I was not born until 1967… The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series that year, but my attachment to Stan was through working for the Stagehands Union… Throughout working events at Busch Stadium and other events throughout my years… 100th Anniversary of The St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium II, + Statue Dedications to Enos Slaughter Etc. though the Years… In 1991 I was at the ribbon cutting to open the new St. Louis Galleria (1991)… Stan stood leaning against stage (no one knew he was there) as flocks of people surrounded Ozzie Smith. I had received my first ever Local 6 Stagehands St. Louis, MO Union Card that Year, and without even knowing who Stan was, asked “The Man” to sign my Union Card. Not only did he, but we conversed for over a half hour. I later had my picture taken with him and Mr. Jack Buck at a Busch Stadium II Fanfest at 100th Anniversary Celebration. The Man talked to me as if he knew me for years but we had only met at the Galleria & Fanfest… I will never forget when I got him to meet Mr. Bill Murray, during his Film Shoot in St. Louis “Larger than Life” (1996). Stan came to movie set, played on the harmonica “Take Me out to the Ballgame,” handed out over 100 harmonicas to children (probably a 100 of them), handed out autographed postcards of his accomplishments in his MLB years, and could not have been nicer!! Bill Murray, bought Crown Candy Kitchen shakes for everyone and later when Mr. Ozzie Smith retired, he had a party at The Fabulous Fox. Stan “The Man” Musial was still the fan favorite. As he got older, he never changed… giving back to his fans, handing out those postcards of his achievements… Jesus Christ, My Father, Clayton Moore “The Lone Ranger” & Stan Musial were and still are my idols.
Here is my favorite Stan Musial story, as told to me by Bing Devine… In 1983, Stan was being interviewed about the success of the split finger fastball. Bruce Sutter’s success with the split finger in the 1982 World Series, as well as for the prior 5 years, had produced many converts in the pitching world. In the context of the widespread use of the split finger in the National League and the drop of the NL batting average, Stan was asked what he thought he could hit with the split finger as part of the pitching arsenal. Stan replied .303, maybe .305. The interviewer responded that he was surprised that Stan held the split finger in such high esteem, as he was a lifetime .331 hitter. Stan replied, “You have to remember, I’m over 60 years old”.