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"There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress." Mark Twain (1835-1910)

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"Liberty must at all hazards be supported." -John Adams (1735-1826)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It’s been a bad week for Sports Heroes or has it?

It’s been a bad week for Sports Heroes or has it? It all depends on who you describe as a hero.

First, ya got your Lance Armstrong, or as I refer to him—Lance Madolph. We realize he has been falling for some time now, but those still riding his band wagon weren’t really sure until he told Oprah the dirty little news. The guy seems to be nothing more than a thug and a cheat—definitely not your everyday-run-of-the-mill hero.

Then we find out that Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend most likely never existed even though he kept us up to date on the minute-by-minute developments of his hurt for more than a month after discovering that she didn’t die on the same day as his grand mother and never even existed at all. String-along-fiction at it’s best!

This morning I woke up to more bad news about still yet another sports hero. Stanley Frank Musial (Stan the Man) passed away Saturday at his home in St. Louis. This is a far better candidate for bad sports news than either of the two accounts above.


For more than 60 years I have maintained Stan the Man as my primary idol in the world of sports and a true hero—a far piece from the Johnny-come-latelies above—neither of which can reach the coat tales of the Cardinal Legend.

I first became a follower of Stan Musial listening to the Cardinal games over the radio as my family moved around the South, the Midwest, later the West and finally in Texas—the Cardinal games were always available on the radio; they being the most western existing team playing Major League Baseball at the time.

Then I got the chance of a lifetime for a kid born in the forties and growing up in the early fifties. While living in Taylorville, IL, my family chose to drive to St. Louis one sweltering August weekend to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play the St. Louis Cardinals in ole Sportsman Stadium. I thought I had been elected with a ticket to heaven.

We made the trip and I still have the program, the Cardinal yearbook and the Stan the Man bat I managed to talk my dad into buying for me—I don’t recall it being that hard of a task; he was a Cardinal man himself.

I know it’s one of those kid-bats, but it’s my Stan the Man Bat

Stan Musial was part of that Greatest Generation and even took a year off in 1945 to serve in the Navy during World War II—you wouldn’t catch either of the above serving anywhere that wasn’t in their money grubbing future.

Musial, while playing 22 years with the Cardinals, won the batting title seven times, hitting .300 or better for 16 straight seasons, played on three World Champion Teams, won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award three times, played in 24 All-star games (tying a record) and held the National League record for hits.

One of my fondest memories came in the late 70s during a trip to Cooperstown when I had the opportunity to stand beside the locker of Stan the Man and introduce my son to the record plaques hanging on the wall of the top ten record holders in all the primary statistical holders in baseball up to that time. At the top of most and mixed somewhere in the top ten of all was the name Stan Musial. He was simply the best at what he did and held that level for a long, long time.

Oh, that game in August of 1951, the Cardinals won by-the-way. There were some very memorable names on the field that day— Enos Slaughter (9) and Red Schoendienst (2) for the Cardinals and Roy Campanella (39), Pee Wee Reese (1), Jackie Robinson (42), Duke Snider (4) and Dick Williams (38) for the Brooklyn Dodgers (for the sake of space; I’ll just name the eventual Hall of Fame members on the field that day). But I came to see  Stan Musial (6).

“A large bronze statute erected outside Busch Stadium II and then moved to the newest Busch Stadium carries the words uttered by then commissioner Ford C. Frick the day Musial retired, on Sept. 29, 1963. Frick said: “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”” (“Cardinal’s Hall of Famer Stan Musial dies at age 92” R.B. Fallstrom, The Associated Press, Jan. 20, 2013)

That's me in front of the Musial statue referenced above on a pilgrimage to the Stadium.

Will we ever see another the likes of Stan the Man?

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