Patterico's Pontifications


Stan The Man

Filed under: General — JD @ 6:38 pm

[Guest post by JD]

As a lifelong Cardinal fan, the passing of Stan Musial at the age of 92 was a horrible day.

The relationship between Stan the Man, Cardinal Dolan, and Pope John Paul II was fascinating. Cardinal Dolan’s stories and anecdotes from decades of their friendship are heartwarming.

The story of when Cardinal Dolan met Stan the Man …

For Dolan, the funeral will be a goodbye to part of his childhood. From the ages of 6 to 16, the Cardinals “meant the world” to Dolan, he said. Every morning during the season, he woke up and grabbed the Globe Democrat to check the baseball standings and box scores. On so many summer nights, he fell asleep to the voices of Harry Caray and Jack Buck calling the games. Once a year or so, Dolan’s father took him to see The Man at work in Sportsman’s Park.

His boyhood, Dolan said, “was a healthy fantasizing about baseball as personified by Stan — about talent, consistency and day-in-day-out leadership of the club.”

When Dolan was about 10, he and his brother were at Lambert Field to pick up their grandmother from a trip to New York. As they waited at the gate, they saw Musial, and their father encouraged them to go shake his hand.

In his homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York last Sunday — a day after Musial’s death — Dolan recalled the memory for his flock.

“I can remember meeting him when I was 10 years of age, and it’s as if it were yesterday when I went up to him and I said, ‘Hi, Stan,’ ” Dolan said at the service, which was recorded by the archdiocese. “And he rustled my hair and he said, ‘How are you, Slugger?’ I will never forget that.”

Nor would I.

A great story about Musial and the Pope, John Paul II.

Dolan said Musial later told him that one of the greatest thrills of his life was not when he reached the 3,000-hit mark, but on Oct. 16, 1978, when Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II.

Musial’s visits to Rome — where he and other friends of John Paul were led up the Vatican’s “Polish staircase” to the pope’s private apartment — meant visits with Dolan, and the two men got to know one another over the years.

“When I would see Stan on those occasions, he was always beaming,” Dolan said. “He was so fond of the Holy Father.”

According to George Vecsey’s biography, “Stan Musial: An American Life,” Musial and the pope — both athletes — were “physically and psychically comfortable with each other.”

During one early-morning trip up the Polish staircase for a private Mass with John Paul in his personal chapel, some American priests recognized Musial, according to Vecsey’s book.

“I’m entitled to be here because I’m also a Cardinal,” Musial told them.

The whole linked article is just so good. Click on the link.

One final excerpt ….

In 2001, after Dolan was named a St. Louis auxiliary bishop, the two men ran into one another at a Mass Dolan was celebrating at the Church of the Annunziata in Ladue.

Musial grabbed Dolan after Mass and they went to Schneithorst’s Coffee House, where Musial was a regular, for breakfast. As Dolan told the story in his homily at St. Patrick’s last weekend, he asked Musial — who had a career batting average of .331 — what he might bat if he was playing today.

“Ahh. If I were playing today, with everything — with a juiced-up ball and bat and AstroTurf, I might hit .275,” Musial said.

“Stan, I think you’re selling yourself short,” Dolan said. “.275?”

Musial shrugged. “Well, I’m 80,” he said.

This is not just a loss for baseball. Stan Musial was a man never tarnished by scandal, sometimes described as even boring. He was a lifetime .331 hitter. He had the exact same amount of hits at home as he did on the road. He was a devout believer, and was married to his wife, Lil for over 7 decades. He will be missed.

16 Responses to “Stan The Man”

  1. Sorry, this is totally not politics. Or law. And kind of personal.

    JD (b63a52)

  2. Here’s the link again if anyone needs it. The anecdotes are charming, and I suspect Musial was, too.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  3. I don’t know why my link is not working. I will fix when I get home. Thanks, DRJ.

    JD (134f7b)

  4. Fixed. Too many http’s.

    Patterico (8b3905)

  5. Damn. Screwed up a perfectly good post

    JD (134f7b)

  6. Thanks, JD….Stan The Man was one of the finest, ever!

    askeptic (2bb434)

  7. The Bob Costas eulogy for Stan the Man was really lovely. It can be found here.

    On a personal note, my sister attended the University of Missouri and was a dorm suite-mate with Stan’s granddaughter. My sister said it was weird when they roadtripped to St. Louis for a game and walked past the statue of Musial in front of the stadium. Stan’s granddaughter just sort of looked at it and said, “Yeah, that’s grandpa.” It’s nice to think that a guy who is a hero to millions is just grandpa to some young girl.

    And, JD, I don’t want to be the fart in church, but that anecdote about Musial saying he would only hit .275 is actually an oldie that has been used by several players. Ty Cobb would pull that quip during his retirement, and Cobb probably cribbed it from Nap Jajoie or Wee Willie Keeler.

    JVW (4826a9)

  8. For a long time, the Cardinals were the major league team farthest west, as well as the team closest to the southern states. (Ok, and the hapless St. Louis Browns were there for awhile, too, prior to relocating to Baltimore.)
    As a result, the Cards were not only “St. Louis’ team,” but they were also the favorite team of many westerners, and southerners, in addition to people in parts of the midwest and rockies, and plains states.
    And Stan the Man was the team’s icon—and still is.

    R.I.P., Mr. Musial.

    Elephant Stone (1c7ac7)

  9. As a result, the Cards were not only “St. Louis’ team,” but they were also the favorite team of many westerners, and southerners, in addition to people in parts of the midwest and rockies, and plains states.

    I grew up in Colorado (pre-Rockies days) and even though I was of the era when there were LA Dodgers, California Angels, Oakland A’s, SF Giants, Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, and Minnesota Twins all west of the Mississippi River, I noticed that about half the people of my parents’ generation were Cards fans, including my maternal grandparents. I absolutely concur with your observation.

    JVW (4826a9)

  10. JVW – I have no doubt that has been passed on down the line.

    JD (b63a52)

  11. I just can’t believe he was 92. Where does time go?

    elissa (ea9191)

  12. Love this post.

    Patterico (8b3905)

  13. That’s me but not logged in. Don’t want to bother.

    Patterico (8b3905)

  14. My dads favorite player was Stan the man. My uncles favorite was Ted Williams, I can remember them arguing who was better.

    mg (31009b)

  15. Elephant Stone,

    I grew up in a Texas family that loved the Cards so I did, too, but I never realized why they felt that way. Thanks for sharing that.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  16. Cardinal Dolan pushes himself forward for any newsy or celebrity ceremony. I wish someone would try pushing him aside when the news cameras and media will be present. He’s not my pope or America’s pope or pastor of the national parish.
    “Sic transit gloria mundi.”

    Chuck Murphy (e65161)

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