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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thank You, Mr. Musial

I have no idea how old I was. Old enough to have vivid memories enhanced over the years by photographs and family stories. We were in St. Louis for a business meeting of my fathers. We were going to dinner at Stan and Biggies. Stan had long ago retired from playing, but still showed up at his restaurant to meet and greet the patrons and his fans. 

Stan was always a product of his small town PA upbringing. He was quiet, humble, but unfailingly polite and genuine."I was a poor boy who struck it rich in many ways through the wonders of baseball," he said in his autobiography. He never forgot how lucky he was to play the game we all love. 

My grandmother told me to make sure and be very polite if Stan the Man came round to our table. She might have told me this more than once. Of course my grandmother and my father had told me many times about the greatest Cardinal ever, so I knew a lot about The Man. 

Stan and Biggies was a coat and tie restaurant. The gentleman in front of us did not have a jacket, so one was provided for him from some special closet close by. That really impressed me. 

When we were seated I remember scanning the room trying to figure out which of the men was Stan. My mom told me not to worry because he usually walked around and greeted people at their table.

I was also taken care of by the very nice waiter. He brought me a "Kiddie Cocktail". That was the most magnificent drink I had ever had. That really really impressed me. 

It wasn't long before I saw a very distinguished looking man walking around from table to table. I knew from the moment I saw him it was Stan the Man. He was stopping and greeting people and handing out cards that had his picture and signature on them. He had at least 5000 tables to go before he got to us. At least that's what I thought at the time. I wouldn't go to the bathroom for fear I would miss him. I might have had a couple of those Kiddie Cocktails.

The table next to us seated a large party. I did not think he would ever get away from those people. Did I mention the Kiddie Cocktails? I might have really had to go to the bathroom by this time.

Only one "Stan the Man" (photo MLBLOGS)
Finally he made it to our table. He greeted my parents.
He turned to me and said "Hello, I'm Stan Musial." I remember that so clearly. He actually didn't think I would know who he was. Well I would rectify that real quick. I jumped out of my chair, grabbed him to hug him, which happened to be around his legs, and said something like, I know who you are Mr. Musial. You're the greatest Cardinal ever. I had to go to the bathroom so badly and was so excited that I was jumping up and down. There I was in the middle of Stan and Biggies in my pink dress and black patent shoes jumping up and down and hugging Stan Musial. Around his legs. Thank the good lord my bladder withstood the excitement. 

Color my parents mortified. He was a true gentleman and so nice. He bent down and said something about how nice it was that a little girl like me knew about baseball. I don't recall anything else of that conversation. I was just totally entranced that Stan Musial had talked to me. He handed me his photo card and laughed with my parents. He then went on to the next table.That experience impressed me more than I can ever put into words.

I finally went to the bathroom. I don't think I walked, I floated. My mother might have mentioned something about being "surprised" I grabbed Mr. Musial.

My photo looks like this one. (PhotoFile)
When I got back to the table there was an 8x10 picture at my place setting. It was a picture of Stan Musial in his Cardinal uniform standing in that famous batting stance of his. It said, "To a sweet girl. Best wishes, Stan Musial." I was over the moon. By this time he was no longer in the room for me to thank him. Can't imagine why.

That photo, along with my grandmother's Wrigley and Busch programs and some other memorabilia are tucked away safely in storage. I am thankful for them.

But what is really important is one small memory of "baseball's perfect knight" that I treasure, will never forget, and for which I am forever truly grateful. 

Thank you, Mr. Musial. 

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