January 19, 2013
"Man-kind" mourns today. The primary baseball icon of the Midwest -- the soft-smiling, sweet-swinging, deferential and genial man known as "The Man" -- has passed. Stan Musial, known for his pretzel stance, prodigious production, princely personality and Hall of Fame harmonica, died on Saturday, surrounded by family at his home in Ladue, Mo., not far from St. Louis, where he made his mark as a batsman par excellence in the 1940s and '50s. Arguably the greatest left-handed hitter in National League history was 92.
His stylish, spring-loaded stance and oft-repeated swing -- for years, Musial swung an invisible bat as his greeting or bow --and the remarkable numbers they produced for the St. Louis Cardinals placed The Man among the most distinctive and elite players in baseball's long history. He won three National League Most Valuable Player Awards, three World Series, seven batting championships, the hearts of millions and the enduring nickname that was as unembellished as he was.
Musial was marked by conspicuous modesty, unfailing propriety and utter lack of flamboyance, as sportscaster Bob Costas observed in a passage from ESPN's SportsCentury series: "He didn't hit a homer in his last at-bat; he hit a single. He didn't hit in 56 straight games. He married his high school sweetheart and stayed married to her, never married a Marilyn Monroe. He didn't play with the sheer joy and style that goes alongside Willie Mays' name. ... All Musial represents is more than two decades of sustained excellence and complete decency as a human being."
Consistent with that description was the presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Musial by President Obama at the White House on Feb. 15, 2011. An American civilian can receive no greater honor.
MLB Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig offered his condolences in a statement released shortly after Musial's death.
"Major League Baseball has lost one of its true legends in Stan Musial, a Hall of Famer in every sense and a man who led a great American life. He was the heart and soul of the historic St. Louis Cardinals franchise for generations, and he served his country during World War II. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, Stan's life embodies baseball's unparalleled history and why this game is the national pastime.
"As remarkable as 'Stan the Man' was on the field, he was a true gentleman in life. All of Major League Baseball mourns his passing, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, admirers and all the fans of the Cardinals."