IN MEMORY: Stan Musial, 1920-2013

Stan Musial receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom as two other recipients -- Former President George H.W. Bush and basketball star and human-rights advocate Bill Russell -- look on.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

Stan Musial receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom as two other recipients — Former President George H.W. Bush and basketball star and human-rights advocate Bill Russell — look on. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

Stan Musial, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a recipient of America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — died yesterday in Ladue, Mo. He was 92. The St. Louis Cardinals announced the death on the team website at 7:45 p.m. ET.

“We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family,” said William DeWitt Jr., chairman of the Cardinals.  “Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball.”

President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Musial in 2011.

“Stan matched his hustle with humility,” Obama said on Feb. 15, 2011. “He retired with 17 records — even as he missed a season in his prime to serve his country in the Navy. He was the first player to make — get this — $100,000. Even more shocking, he asked for a pay cut when he didn’t perform up to his own expectations. You can imagine that happening today. Stan remains, to this day, an icon, untarnished; a beloved pillar of the community; a gentleman you’d want your kids to emulate.”

Musial called it the honor of his life. Part of the soundtrack of Obama’s remarks about Musial is dubbed with the sound of Musial playing the harmonica.

“Again, a true gentleman on and off the field,” baseball great and American icon Willie Mays told MLB.com. “I never heard anybody say a bad word about him, ever.”

Sportscaster Bob Costas once remarked that Musial was noted for his lack of flamboyance. It was a compliment of the highest order, given that baseball and other professional sports sometimes produce players that are louder than the crowd.

Musial, a slugger who played in the majors from 1941 through 1963 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, was from the hard-working town of Donora, Pa., near the hard-working larger town of Pittsburgh. He was a role model to children nationally. The Cardinals described Musial as “unpretentious, untroubled, friendly and folksy,” saying he was “baseball’s perfect knight and the greatest, most beloved player in team history.”

Stan Musial was famous in America for more than seven decades — famous for his batting stance, famous for his results at the plate, famous for long balls and scorching line drives, famous for having an off year and taking a $20,000 pay cut, famous for playing the harmonica, famous for remaining a regular Joe despite his fame, famous for community work.

And Stan Musial was famous for marrying his high school sweetheart and remaining married to her for 71 years. Lilian Musial died last year. She was 91, and had met her future husband at a baseball game in 1934, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the United States. Barack Obama was two in 1963, when Musial had his last at-bat in the majors during the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

Stan Musial, 1920-2013. Husband. Father. Baseball player. “Stan the Man” to millions of fans. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

American icon.

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One Response to “IN MEMORY: Stan Musial, 1920-2013”

  1. I had the honor and privilege of meeting him at his restaurant in St. Louis many years ago. What a class act and true gentleman. He would always go around the room asking people how their meal was, was everything OK, shaking hands with people and posing for pictures with them. A great memory I will always treasure.

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