Spring training may have just started but, here in Cardinals Nation, baseball has no beginning or end. For Redbirds fans, it is a sport with an infinite season, or at least one hopes so when it comes to Stan Musial, who died January 19.
Musial — depending on your pronunciation particularities and preferences — it may even rhyme with usual. Despite his humble off-field demeanor, that term didn’t apply to The Man in any way.
He may never have earned baseball’s Triple Crown, during his conspicuously consistent 22-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, but Musial was no statistical slouch. Stan the Man won seven National League batting titles, was a three-time NL Most Valuable Player and led the Redbirds to three World Series championships in the 1940s while squeezing in a year of Navy service during the decade.
The lifelong Cardinal was faithful to both his on- and off-field family, celebrating 72 years of marriage before his wife Lil died in 2012 and first giving up advertising cigarettes, then kicking the habit all together to avoid being a bad influence for kids, whether his own or one of the thousands who lined up to snag one of the autographed cards he kept in his pocket.
It will be a little sad when Stan the Man isn’t on the field at Busch Stadium with other Cardinals Hall of Famers this opening day, but I like to think he’ll be watching from somewhere. Better yet, the famously inclusive outfielder (who would declare “deal me in” to African American players who otherwise felt excluded at the All-Star festivities of the past) may even be coming up to bat himself in the All-Star Game of all time, trying to get one over the gloves of the likes of Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson while his wife Lil looks on from the best box seat in the park.