Baseball’s Perfect Knight
- Updated: January 25, 2013
I need to write something. What do I write?
What can you write about Stan Musial, who passed on the evening of January 19th at the age of 92? What can you say that hasn’t already been said about a man who stood head and shoulders above anyone else that ever wore Cardinal red and was an even better person off the field than on?
What can you say about the guy that was one of the all-time greats, but so unassuming that he was not originally voted onto the All Century Team, forcing baseball to scramble to fix such an injustice?
What can you say about a player who was a legend even before he retired and had his stature only grow since he last wore the birds on the bat?
There’s poetry to be written. There are moving words to be spoken. What do I write?
What do I write about the person that inspired my father’s generation as well as my generation and made his mark on the generation of Cardinal fans just now coming up? A person so well regarded that my eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter were sad when I passed the news on to them this evening?
What can you say about the player who had the integrity not to jump to an outlaw league for much more money, even as others around him took the easy cash? A player that had an off-year and asked for a pay cut instead of an increase?
What can you pen about a man whose image (well, it was supposed to be, at least, even if the sculptor apparently never saw Musial play) might be the most well-regarded monument in a city that’s got another fairly notable one? No one ever says, “Meet me at the Arch” but for so many summers gone by, “Meet me at Musial” has been the catchphrase for the season.
What can you say about the man deemed “baseball’s perfect knight” by the commissioner of baseball? “Perfect knight.” Will any player ever again engender that kind of respect and adoration? Chipper Jones just retired in Atlanta, spending his whole Hall-of-Fame career with the Braves. Even he, though, doesn’t come close to the standard of veneration that Stan has set.
We’ll never see his type again. We knew that, of course. We knew that we’d never see another Musial, even as we (and I put myself at the forefront of this) hoped we would with Albert Pujols. Even if Pujols had rejected the money of Los Angeles, though, he never could have quite reached Stan’s entire portfolio. He might have had the baseball side of things, but even as good as Albert’s off-the-field activities might have been, he still wasn’t Stan.
Epics need to be written for this man. Songs should be sung. What business do I have trying to find words to sum up his life and his legacy, even if those words existed?
Maybe numbers could help. 475 HR. 3,630 hits, evenly split between home and away. 1,949 runs. 1,951 RBI. .976 OPS. Three World Series titles as a player and another in his only year as general manager. Do those tell the story?
It’s a start, but it’s not enough. It doesn’t tell of the times that Stan gave away money shaped as rings to people. It doesn’t tell of the times he sat down and talked with impressionable youngsters. It doesn’t tell of him smoking only out of sight before quitting altogether because he hated that kids might pick up the habit from him. It doesn’t tell of him meeting Lillian at 15 and staying with her until her passing last year. Talk about an example for others in all departments.
I’ve never been in a world that didn’t have Stan Musial as the greatest symbol of Cardinal Nation. I never will be, either. Because even though Stan is gone from this world, he’s never will depart the hearts and minds of those that follow the team from St. Louis.
Peace be with you, Stan. Take it easy on those pitchers up there in the sandlot games of heaven, will ya?
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