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Missing Musial

Artwork by Brian Swope

In my parents’ house there is a baseball. It’s just a normal baseball like any other, but with one small exception. Somebody wrote on this ball. As I look more closely I see the unmistakable signature of Stan Musial, arguably the greatest Cardinal of all time.

The ball was a gift, given to my dad by the founder of the company he worked for who was a friend of Mr. Musial. It has become much more than just a gift though. It has become a relic of days gone by that will forever stay in our family.

That got me to thinking about the game today. It has become increasingly rare to see superstar players play their entire careers in one city anymore. Ballplayers in the mold of Stan “The Man” Musial just don’t come around that often anymore.

In the era of free agency, prima dona superstars swap teams more often than the Midwest weather changes from warm to cold and back again. Often going after the most money and using over the top, money hungry agents like Scott Boras, these players have tarnished the image of the game that so many of us love.

That brings me back to Stan “The Man” Musial. While his nickname might make you think of a prima dona, Musial was anything but that. He was as humble and understated as they come. Instead of using his mouth or a talking head agent, Stan spoke with the crack of his bat.

When he retired, Stan Musial’s name was all over the record books with 17 Major League, 29 National League, and 9 All-Star game records. He did all of that while playing his entire 22 year career for the St. Louis Cardinals. He even took a year off in the middle to serve in the Navy during World War II.

It wasn’t just the way Stan played that garnered attention. It was the way he carried himself everywhere he went. The fun loving, harmonica playing, ball player from Pennsylvania was also a gentleman, a man of honor and great integrity.

“The Man” was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama, a Chicago White Sox fan. It is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a civilian by the Commander-in-Chief. At the time, the President said of Stan that he was, “an icon untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you'd want your kids to emulate.” There may not be any more fitting words to describe him.

So on this day, six years to the day following Stan Musial’s passing, my mind returns to the ball. It sits in a place as understated and unassuming as the man who signed it. A relic to see and to hold and to cherish.

In the words of Ford Frick, as inscribed beneath the statue that stands outside Busch Stadium, “Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight.” We miss you Mr. Musial. Let all of Heaven hear the crack of your bat.

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