Wednesday marked The Hall of Fame induction day in the world of baseball and that always gets this Cardinal fan thinking about one man in particular. Stan Musial. The legendary Cardinal passed away nearly a year ago and that makes this particular January(or the eve of Spring Training reporting) especially nostalgic. He was and always will be the epitome of greatness and what a baseball player and general athlete should strive to achieve. In my opinion, The Cardinal Way started with a player like Musial.
These days, when people talk about inductions, all I hear is who should have made it and who still isn’t in the Hall. Fair enough, but every January I remember what the benchmark for induction should be. If basketball players and fans wanted to be like Mike, baseball players should want to be like Stan The Man. In a sport with a dirty history of cheaters, suspect role models and crazy dirty players, Musial was the greatest because he exceeded his amazing ability on the field when he was off. What is so hard about being a good man while you are famous?
Athletes can be larger than life these days, and young kids far too often chase the wrong ideals in being a great player and form bad habits in the process. It’s classic human nature to miss the point behind what being great and Hall of Fame worthy is all about. They think large muscles will get them fame and legendary status. Benching 300 pounds doesn’t buy you a fine earned run average or batting average folks. It’s about skill, perseverance and character. This is where young athletes in high school and college chase performance enhancing drugs and damage their careers and reputations forever. They forget what is most important in being a good ballplayer. For that benchmark, they need to look no further than Stan Musial.
I don’t have to bore you with all of Musial’s stats. To St. Louis Cardinal fans, his numbers and achievements are like oxygen and water intake. However, let’s roll over the highlights because they truly never get old. .331 batting average, 24 All Star games, 3 World Series rings, 3 MVPs, 475 home runs, 3,630 hits, and a .417 on base percentage. Lifetime. He hit 6 home runs in All Star games. He hit 5 home runs in a doubleheader. He hits a ton of triples, scored a ton of runs and didn’t strike out. He got his 3,000th hit at Wrigley Field.
Unlike Ty Cobb, he didn’t play dirty. Unlike Mickey Mantle, he took care of himself. He fought for his country and retired with 11 Cardinals franchise records. This is my favorite stat line. When he retired in 1963, he held 17 Major League Baseball records, 29 National League marks and 9 All Star Game marks. That’s greatness. Off the field, he was a fan favorite, didn’t shun the media and respected other baseball players.
If there is a perfect athlete, it’s Stan Musial. Plain and simple.
As I made my way through my office yesterday, I found my son Vincent playing with Musial’s bobblehead statue. Instead of grabbing it from him and polishing it with a wet wipe, I sat down and let him toy around with the prized piece of memorabilia. I wanted to see where this encounter went. After shaking it incessantly, Vin looked at it and back up at me. For a split second, he was curious. As in, tell me a story dad. 10 seconds later, he left the room but here’s the thing to remember. It’s important for fathers and mothers to teach their kids what greatness in an athlete is and how to achieve it. When Vin gets old enough, he will get the full story on Stan The Man Musial.
Today, I remember Musial. He passed away a year ago this January at the tender age of 92 and while he had lived a full life and went peacefully, something tells me if someone deserve to hit 100 and beyond, it was Stan. In some way, I am glad Pujols left because that allowed Stan Musial to remain the #1 Cardinal of all time. Sure, Albert Pujols would have never cleanly approached Stan, but at least it is unanimous today and when he passed.
Outside the 3rd base gate, facing west, stands the statue of Stan Musial. It is the biggest statue around the venue and rightfully so. If anyone wants to know what it means to be a Cardinal, look no further than Musial.
Photo Credit-Associated Press
Dan Buffa is the co-creator, administrator and writer for the movie website, film-addict.com. He also writes for the local blog United Cardinal Bloggers in addition to Arch City Sports and also writes for his personal blog, http://www.doseofbuffa.com. He is a STL born and raised writer with a need to inform and the ability to pound out 1,000-1,500 word pieces with ease. When he isn’t writing or drinking coffee, he is spending time with his wife and son in South City. Follow him at @buffa82 on Twitter and reach him for thoughts, comments and general feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.