I've been a St. Louisan, and a Cardinals fan, my whole life. I got the chance to see Stan Musial play a couple of times at old Sportsman's Park, but the '64 Cardinals were really the team and time that I began to identify with. So I was coming of age as Stan was leaving baseball.
Still, even as a young boy, I knew there was something different about Stan Musial by the way my Dad and others talked about him, even as they embraced each new wave of Cardinal stars.
And it occurred to me this week just how unusual this is. That a man would be the civic face and constant source of inspiration to a major city for over 70 years. Most iconic personalities, other than monarchs, do not achieve that status until much later in life. Because he was a force as a baseball player from the age of 20, his reign over our fair city is roughly equivalent to that of Queen Elizabeth's over Great Britain.
Stan wasn't born into royalty, but he could not have lived his life more gallantly.
In fact, the story of how Stan got his nickname is truly prophetic. The story goes that, as usual, Stan was wearing out the Brooklyn Dodgers in a doubleheader when a Dodger fan cried out above the din, "Here comes that man again." It's interesting that even in that moment, Stan was a man first, slugger second. Little did he know.
Baseball, like most sports, is one of our fondest forms of escape. We can set aside our weekly worries and daily disappointments to enjoy the super human exploits of others, with whom we could not possibly compete, and make their achievements in some small way our own.
But what draws us to Stan Musial is different, and at least to me, inescapable.
It's true that we can never match his accomplishments on the baseball field, but we can try to come close, in our own way, to his accomplishments off. Listening to the many tributes to Stan over these last few days I was struck by how the recounting of his baseball feats was almost rushed through to get to the stories of the man himself. As Bob Costas said, "He batted 1.000 as a person."
In addition to death and taxes, there's one more thing I'm sure of - I won't live to see another like him. I only hope I live to see myself more like him.