Stan Musial retired four years before I was born, so I never did get to see him play. However listening to my father and grandfather talk about him so eloquently, I always felt like I did. It didn’t matter that they were both Yankee fans (American League fans), there was a tone of respect that came from their voices whenever Stan Musial’s name came up.
I was privileged to have met Stan “The Man” on May 6, 2001 at a private 70th birthday party for my childhood idol Willie Mays, an evening I had been graciously invited to. Nervous at first, I spoke to Stan for at least 10 minutes one on one as he went out of his way to make certain we were not interrupted. I’ll never forget how comfortable he made me feel as he broke the ice by starting our conversation off by asking me for my autograph after I introduced myself. I will also never forget how important he made me feel by the follow-up questions he asked me. Stan made it clear that he was not only listening to me, but interested in conversing. At the conclusion of our conversation as dinner was about to be served, I made sure to tell Stan that although my father and grandfather had never met him in person, he was exactly as they had described to me when I was a young boy.
All of Willie’s peers were there and much of the evening was centered around roasting “The Say Hey Kid.” As is common with celebrity roasts, when people get up to the microphone, they often make jokes about other celebrities in attendance too. Most often these comments are off color, they are always very personal, and they commonly draw laughs at the individual’s expense. I didn’t realize it until listening to Bob Costas’ eulogy on Saturday, but thinking back to that day, not one person heckled Musial. There had to be 35-45 of Willie’s contemporaries there that night, and there was a laugh at everyone’s expense; but not Stan’s. There just wasn’t anything on or off the field for any of his contemporaries to make fun of.
If you wonder why your father or your grandfather seemed to care more about the game of baseball then you did or your kids ever will, do yourself a favor and listen to Bob Costas’ eulogy of Stan Musial. You’ll be a better person for it. It’s not about Costas or whether you like him or not, and you don’t have to have an oh gosh – gee willikers Midwestern temperament to understand the meaning of Bob’s words. No matter where you were born and raised, you’ll get it I’m sure.
… it is more important to be appreciated than to be glorified, to be respected than to be celebrated, to be understood and loved than to be idolized, and that friendship is more important than fame.”