Remembering Stan Musialby Senator Claire McCaskill
Posted on 2013-01-23
McCASKILL. Madam President, I want to thank my colleague. He and
I disagree on many things, but we agree on many things also, and one of
those things usually begins and ends with the State we love, Missouri,
and certainly some of our most famous and beloved people who come from
Missouri. Obviously, there is no one who deserves more love and respect
than Stan Musial.
There are so many memories about Stan Musial that I want to try to encapsulate today, but the interesting thing about the memories I have about Stan Musial is that I don't have these memories because I am a Senator. They do not belong uniquely to me because I am an elected official. I have these memories that I share with hundreds of thousands of people who were lucky enough to encounter Stan Musial during his time on Earth.
You know, when you meet somebody, and you can tell they are kind of looking over you to try to find the person who is more important behind you or maybe they are impatient because they do not think you are a big enough deal to be taking their time? If you look at our sports icons today who travel with posses and have entourages and certain rules about who can come near them and who can't and when, that was not Stan Musial. Not one day of his career or one day after his career did he consider himself untouchable. He saw it as his duty and obligation to be there for all fans. Whether it was somebody who worked at the ballpark sweeping after the game was over or whether it was a very talented ballplayer from another team, everyone was equal in Stan Musial's eyes. What a wonderful American value.
I could stand here today, Madam President, and talk about his amazing record as a baseball player, his unique swing, and the beauty of his accomplishments in America's favorite pastime, but what we need to focus on as we mourn the loss of this living legend is his character because it was his character that brought universal love, respect, and devotion to the man, our man, Stan ``The Man.'' I know Senator Blunt talked about this story, but I want to elaborate a little bit.
It is 1952. Joe Black has just been called up to the majors after spending 1 year in the minors with the Brooklyn organization. He is facing Stan Musial. Now, keep in mind that this is an accomplished baseball player who had won two championships in the Negro Baseball Leagues, and it had only been a few years since Jackie Robinson had, in fact, broken the color barrier for Major League Baseball. He is facing Stan Musial, who already was the most feared hitter in baseball. He is standing there as a Black man on the mound in this baseball game, and out of the Cardinal dugout come jeers and taunts. In fact, one of the things said was, hey, Stan, you are not going to have any trouble hitting that ball against that dark background.
When the game was over, Stan Musial decided not to stay in the Cardinal dugout. Joe Black told the story that as he sat in the dugout, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up, and there was Stan Musial from the opposing dugout saying to Joe Black: You are going to be a great pitcher.
Now, that encapsulates the character of Stan Musial.
Chuck Connors, ``The Rifleman,'' used to tell this story. He was a struggling hitter for the Chicago Cubs.
I may need to explain to you, Madam President, but I certainly don't need to explain to anybody in Cardinal Nation that the Chicago Cubs are an opponent. Now, we don't like the Chicago Cubs in Cardinal Nation.
Chuck Connors asked a teammate what he should do about his swing. He was struggling with being able to hit in the majors, and they all told him the same thing: The only guy who can help you is Stan Musial. So even though he was reluctant to approach a hitter on the opposing team, he went to Musial and asked for help, and, of course, Stan responded as all of us would expect he would; he spent 30 minutes in the cage with an opposing player trying to help him with his swing. Connors recounted that he really wasn't ever that good of a hitter, but he said he never forgot Stan Musial's kindness.
And when he finished watching me cut away at the ball, Stan slapped me on the back and told me to keep swinging.
After the 1946 season, the promoters from the Mexican League decided it was time for them to up the ante on baseball. At the time, Stan Musial was making the enormous sum of $13,500 playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mexican League came to Stan Musial and said: We are going to offer you--a king's ransom at the time--$125,000 for 5 years. That was a lot of money for Stan Musial and his family, but he turned down the Mexican League. When asked about it later, he said: Back in my day, we didn't think about money as much. We just enjoyed playing the game. We loved baseball. I didn't think about anybody else but the Cardinals.
Harry Caray knew Stan Musial for over 50 years. He would often tell the story of Stan Musial wandering out of the ballpark after a steaming doubleheader--and trust me, we can have steaming doubleheaders in Missouri--looking as if he had been through 15 rounds in a prize fight and every single thing in his body language signifying that he was exhausted and just wanted to go home and lie down. Instead, when he got to his car, he found fans waiting for him. ``Watch this,'' Harry Caray told a friend. And sure enough, Musial's whole body straightened--like Popeye had just eaten a can of spinach--and he started shouting, ``Whaddya Say! Whaddya Say!'' And he signed every single autograph of all the fans surrounding his car. Harry Caray loved telling that story not because it was unusual--that is who Stan Musial was--but for the opposite reason: because it was ordinary. Even in his time, when baseball players weren't paid as much and so were more part of the community, Stan Musial stood apart by standing with the people in the community.
It wasn't just Cardinal Nation that worshipped Stan Musial. His opponents, the opposing teams--can you imagine this happening today? Believe it or not, the New York Mets had a Stan Musial Day at their park. And in Chicago, the home of the Cubs, he once finished first in a favorite player survey, edging out the legendary Ernie Banks, who was also a very nice guy who was beloved by the fans of baseball in the Midwest.
I could go on and on with stories that reflect this man's character. Yes, he has amazing statistics. Yes, him hitting a baseball was a thing of beauty to all baseball fans in America. But, really, what this man was about was that phrase we love to throw around in politics way too often; that is, American values. This was a man who didn't have to talk about his values because he lived them--his love for his family and how close they are.
I am very fortunate to be friends with the Musial family and have visited with them in the days since his death. They received messages from every star in the constellation of American baseball, but one stood out. Joe Torre, upon hearing of Stan's death just a few days ago, sent a message to the Musial family, and it simply said this: Stan Musial was a Hall of Famer in the game of life. We will miss you, Stan Musial.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Heinrich). The Senator from Virginia.