(This post was originally run on February 9, 2012. In light of yesterday's public visitation and tomorrow's private funeral. We're running it again.)
Wanna hear something awesome?
Pitchers and catchers report on February 18.*
I know. It makes you giggle, doesn't it?** I don't care if that groundhog tangoed with his shadow, Spring Training is around the corner, and THAT means spring is on the way.***
*For the St. Louis Cardinals, that is. Not every team starts on the same day. Check out the schedules here.
**Actually, based on the number of you that commented on the last post that sports = guy stuff, you may not be giggling. You may not even care. It's okay. I still love you. I may not understand you, but we can still be friends.
***Yes, yes, winter hasn't really been that bad. I don't care. I'm ready for spring and Spring Training.
|My precious . . . I mean, the Commissioner's Trophy|
Where was I? Right. Spring Training is right around the corner, and while my baseball team won't look exactly like it did this time last year****, that's okay because a new season is a fresh start. During Spring Training, the post-season is still every team's dream. Every pitcher still has a chance for a shut-out; every catcher has a chance to throw out that sneaky baserunner. Every batter has a chance to hit like The Man, Stan Musial (career .331 batting average, 475 HR, 1951 RBI.)
****No. We're not going to talk about that here. We're going to talk about the real Man.
|Stan is known for his stance.|
Stan Musial is arguably the best player to ever wear a Cardinal uniform. He is arguably one of the best players to wear any baseball uniform, frequently spoken of as part of the Big Three (Musial, DiMaggio, and Williams). In Stan Musial: An American Life, George Vecsey argues those cases well. For Stan Musial, the usual Spring Training dreams of position players--hitting well, winning pennants, and being chosen as an All-Star--were a reality for most of 22 seasons. In addition to being amazing on the diamond, Stan is generally referred to gentleman off the diamond and a savvy businessman. Would that all professional athletes had his commitment to his wife, his soft touch with fans, and his foresight to earn money in non-athletic pursuits. We'd have a lot more role models in professional sports if they did.
In fact, Stan Musial: An American Life almost seems too good to be true. The stories told, though, are consistent with what was said about Stan when he was an active player and when he was an active businessman. The only real complaints to be found about Stan seem to be that he wasn't omnipotent. If his teammates were looking for a political leader who would use his weight to address the social inequalities of his time, they were looking in the wrong place. Stan wasn't the kind of teammate to chase confrontation. If his hometown was looking for someone to save a small town in the Rust Belt, they were looking in the wrong place. Stan was known to be generous on an individual basis, but he never formed a foundation that makes major donations for hospital wings and children's libraries.
So it seems that Stan wasn't perfect, but as man he was very, very good, and as a player he was great. I'll take that, and I'll take George Vecsey's collection of Stanley anecdotes to carry me over until the baseball season really begins. I liked this glimpse into the history of baseball (Musial's career spanned racial integration and union formation) and the history Stan (his upbringing, his playing days, and his relationships).
For a St. Louis Cardinals fan, this is a must read. For a true fan of baseball, this is a must read. For all of us, it's a great lesson of a life of meaning and value.