So long, Stan

Stan Musial funeral 044Since I couldn’t go to Stan’s wake, I decided to go to the ceremony at Busch Stadium today.  I rode the Metrolink train over from Illinois.  In the same car with me was a young man wearing a white hooded jacket and a Cardinals knit hat.  I knew where he was going.  He had a rose in his hand.  I wish I had thought of that.  But then I thought, flowers die, but blog posts live forever. 

I arrived at  Busch Stadium around 10:40 AM.  I found a good spot to stand across the street from Stan’s statue. I was lucky enough to stand next to a man with a pocket size TV.  He told me he was at the double header that Stan had hit 5 home runs at.  What a lucky guy!  We watched some of the funeral on the TV.

There were so many flowers, tributes, etc. at the statue that it was hard to get a good photo of all of them, but I tried.  Stan Musial funeral 001

More and more people showed up as time went on.  A guy came along handing out buttons, but by the time he got to me, he still had buttons left but he said he was going to give them to kids.  So I had to settle for taking a photo of one, which you will see above.

The St. Louis Fire Department hung a big U.S. Flag between two hook and ladder trucks.  It was a beautiful sight.

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All of the Busch Stadium ushers filed in.  They stood in front on gate 3 and on the bridges above gate 3.  There was a Clydesdale horse brought in.  The handler brought him up behind the statue.  He was a well behaved and very photogenic horse.

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We knew the procession was getting close when the St. Louis Fire Department guys and the St. Louis County Police Pipes and Drums band got into place at the statue.

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The funeral procession arrived around 1:45 PM (or thereabouts – I was too cold to check my watch and my phone was dead).

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The family got out of the limousines to applause by the fans and proceeded to the statue.  Each family member was given a rose to put into a vase at the statue.

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The band played “Amazing Grace” as the family put their roses in the vases.  As the family went back to the limousines, a couple of the family members patted the hearse.

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The crowd spontaneously started singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and applauded the family.  Several of the family members thanked the fans for being there.

As the hearse drove off, we all started saying, “Goodbye, Stan!”  I cried.  But I’m a woman, so I cry at funerals, weddings, sappy movies – oh, never mind.   Here’s a photo of the casket in the hearse:

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If you would like to see a video of the ceremony, you can go here.  It was cold and a long wait, but I’m so glad I went today.  As a longtime Cardinals fan, I felt it my duty and an honor to say farewell to one of the greatest Cardinals baseball players ever.  So so long, Stan.  Thanks for sharing your life and your career with us.  You will never be forgotten.

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RIP Stan the Man

“Here stands baseball’s greatest knight. Here stands baseball’s greatest warrior.”  – Ford Frick.

As you probably already know, Cardinals legend Stan “the Man” Musial died yesterday evening at the age of 92.  He was the greatest Cardinal of all.  Stan’s stats are incredible – he was a 24 time All Star, a 3 time World Series champion, a 3 time National League MVP, a 7 time National League batting champion, with a career .331 batting average, 3,630 hits (split evenly between home and road games), 475 home runs, and 1,951 RBIs.  He accomplished all these stats without using steroids or performance enhancing drugs.  He played for the Cardinals for an incredible 21 seasons, from 1946 to 1963, with a year off in 1945 to serve in the U.S. Navy.  Playing for 21 seasons is an incredible feat and playing for the same team for 21 seasons is even more incredible, unlike some players today whose loyalty is to their wallet instead of to a team.

Stan the regular man was even better than Stan the Man baseball player.  He was a family man who raised five kids and was married to his wife Lil for almost 72 years.  That’s an incredible stat in itself, especially these days where people get divorced at the drop of a hat.    Stan was so worried about the example he set for kids that he stopped smoking.  He went out of his way to encourage African-American players when they first joined the major leagues.

Stan was a classy guy and loved the fans.  No matter how tired he was or no matter where he was, he was happy to give autographs. He was the unofficial ambassador for the City of St. Louis. Even though he was retired, Stan still loved baseball, attended Opening Day ceremonies and he often attended playoff games.  Baseball players today would do well to emulate how Stan treated fans, for without fans, what would baseball (or any sport) be like?  And we fans loved Stan – we lobbied with Flat Stans so that Stan could receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Cardinal Nation has lost one of its elder statesmen and we mourn and celebrate Stan’s life together. How appropriate it is then that Stan died during the weekend of Winter Warmup, the annual love fest between the Cardinals and their fans.  Around Stan’s statue at Busch Stadium upon which the quote referenced above from Ford Frick is engraved, fans have dropped off flowers and other tokens of remembrance.  They gather and share their memories of Stan and pay their respects, just like when Jack Buck and Darryl Kile died.  Fans on Twitter have changed their avatars to Stan to honor him.

I never met Stan personally, but I got to see him up close once.  My husband and I attended the opening ceremonies for Busch Stadium III in 2006, which were held at the gate behind Stan’s statue.  We stood and listened to all the local dignitaries speak about the opening of the new stadium.  Then Stan was introduced to thunderous applause.  He needed help to get up to the microphone, but once he did, he enthralled the crowd with jokes and then he pulled out his harmonica and played it.  It made me sad to see how frail Stan was, a baseball great ravaged by the sands of time and age.

What a legacy Stan leaves us – he was a class act as a baseball player and as a man.  The world could use more people like Stan Musial, who gave 110% on and off the field.  Sadly, however, society today is filled with many self-centered people who feel they are entitled to whatever they can get, whether they have earned it or not.  We would do well to emulate Stan’s work ethic and to treat people with kindness and respect like he did.

If you would like to read more about Stan and his life and career, I recommend the book An American Life:  Stan Musial by George Vecsey.  You can purchase it here.

Finally, here’s a song about Stan.  Thanks for reading.  See you next time!

Diane

Bibliography for the stats above:  Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Musial