Musial memories live on through current Cardinals
Stan Musial’s death struck St. Louis hard on Saturday night. It didn’t matter that most knew his health had long been deteriorating or that he had already done more for this community than most ever will during one lifetime. No, none of it could soften the news.
Musial will be honored and remembered during an upcoming public visitation (Thursday) and funeral/procession (Saturday). Details regarding both can be found here. In the meantime, though, the stories, the memories, the tributes have been flowing from everywhere. Each is touching because each is personal. For someone (me) who hasn’t been in St. Louis all that long and never had the pleasure of knowing Musial personally, I’ve been struck by the stories of Musial’s accessibility, generosity, sincerity and humility. It’s such a hard combination to find in one person in sports today.
But something else made an impact on me over the weekend, too. Perhaps you remember the headlines Morehead State (Ky.) basketball coach Sean Woods made in November when he criticized a current group of college players for not knowing the legacy of those who came before them. Said Woods, a former University of Kentucky basketball player, before his Morehead State team faced UK:
“These kids don’t know anything. I’ll bet you any type of money that besides the kids from Kentucky that are on UK’s team, they couldn’t tell you anything about one player in the history of Kentucky basketball. When I walked in the door (as a UK freshman) I knew about every player.”
Though Woods took a lot of heat for the comments, I actually found myself mostly in agreement with him. Those in college and professional athletics are a part of an entitlement generation that is often most concerned with what it feels should be owed to it. This generation, of which I am a part, is an egocentric bunch, and I’ve often wondered if that has clouded us from appropriately appreciating the footsteps of those we follow.
So, you ask, why in the world would I think it appropriate to bring up Morehead in a blog entry about Musial?
Well, if Woods felt justified in criticizing players for how little they appreciate UK’s past, I believe the current crop of Cardinals deserve praise for the opposite. One after another during Winter Warm-Up this weekend, players were asked about Musial. Some had experienced little more than a handshake from The Man during their time in St. Louis. It didn’t matter. They knew not only who he was, but what he was about. They had long ago learned about Musial’s legacy, even though Musial’s career ended decades before their birth.
This is a group of Cardinals that has a refreshing understanding of a man who made baseball purer, St. Louis stronger and the world better.
Throughout the weekend, in cardinals.com’s Musial coverage, you read the words that some of these current Cardinals spoke when asked about the impact of Stan Musial. I have aggregated those thoughts for you here as well. And as you read them, I hope that you, too, will feel secure in how Musial’s legacy live on.
MITCHELL BOGGS: “For me, one of the best parts of any baseball season was Opening Day when you got to shake his hand and knowing that you’re going to be a part of an organization and a team that was his organization. We are his team. He set an example for not only baseball players, but anybody to live by, and not because he was a good baseball player. He was so much more than that. You look at his life, his 22 years playing for the Cardinals was a small part of that, in the grand scheme of things. And the reason he connected with people, the reason he had such an impact on people was because he was a real person. He didn’t mind shaking your hand. He didn’t mind signing your baseball. That goes a long way with normal people. At the end of the day, he was a great baseball player – one of the best to ever play. But he was a whole lot more than that.”
SHELBY MILLER: “I met him a couple times, but I didn’t really get to sit down and talk with one of the greatest baseball players ever to have played. I regret that. St. Louis lost a good one. He was a great baseball player, but I hear about him being even a better person than he was baseball player.”
ALLEN CRAIG: “I think that his nickname “The Man” kind of says it all. I think it stands for how he played on the field and the person he was off the field. One of the first guys you learn about when you put the uniform on, especially when you step foot in the big league clubhouse, is Stan “the Man” Musial and everything that he stood for and everything that he was. …. As young players coming up and getting to see those guys in the red jackets and getting to shake their hands on Opening Day is really something special and it sets the tone for the season. It makes what you’re doing that much more important.”
JON JAY: “Honestly, growing up in Miami, we don’t have that rich baseball tradition. I’ve really learned that here in St. Louis. I got a chance to meet him. I knew what he stood for and what he was about. You don’t find a better person than that. You see what he did in the community. He won an MVP and then left to serve for his country. It doesn’t get any better than that. You learn that there is more to it than what we do on the field. You want to impact the community, too.”
CARLOS BELTRAN: “What he meant to baseball and what he meant to this city and the whole organization, he’s going to be missed. There’s no doubt about that. It’s a sad moment for baseball, but we have to remember the legacy that he left behind in this game. It’s something remarkable, and I don’t think a lot of baseball players are going to accomplish what he accomplished.”
DANIEL DESCALSO: “I didn’t have a lot of interaction with him, but just meeting him a few times and seeing him around the ballpark and hearing what he means to not only Cardinal fans but the game of baseball and beyond that, it’s a very sad day. He’s going to be missed.”
DAVID FREESE: “Whether you grew up in St. Louis or not, if you’re a fan of baseball, you’re going to hear Stan Musial’s name repeatedly as you grow up. I think everybody is remembering what his 92 years brought to everybody else, not only on the field but everybody talks about how he was off the field. I didn’t know him very well but every time he came by the clubhouse or went to the office with his grandson to sit, it was special. He’s going to be missed. What a life he lived.”
JOHN MABRY: “Words can’t express what Stan meant to the city of St. Louis. If you would tell a young kid to look at someone and say, that’s the way you’re supposed to be off the baseball, Stan Musial was it. One great story for me was that Stan was throwing out a first pitch and I was actually catching the first pitch. He throws the ball, I catch it, and we go out to get a photo op. He says, ‘John, you’re my grandson’s favorite player.’ I said, ‘Well, Mr. Musial, has he looked at the back of your baseball card? Because I will never touch anything that is on the back of that baseball card.’ He said, ‘He doesn’t pay attention to his grandpa.’ He was just a class act and the epitome of a St. Louis Cardinal.”
MIKE MATHENY: ”I think everybody around here, young and old, gets how important Mr. Musial was and still is — and will be — to this organization and this community. Just everything he stood for. It’s just incredible to have the kind of career he had and then continue to be such a big a part of this community. I would be challenged to find anybody who would ever have anything bad to say about him. That’s because he’s first-class and just somebody who changed people’s lives just by being around them, whether they were fans or people that got to see him up close and personal. He’s a very different person that made a huge impact.”
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