Tribute to Stan Musialby Senator Richard J. Durbin
Posted on 2013-01-23
DURBIN. Mr. President, it has been said in St. Louis, MO,
baseball is not a sport, it is a religion. If that is
true, Stan Musial was a St. Louis civic patron saint.
Stan Musial was an icon in St. Louis. He was the best ballplayer to wear a Cardinal's uniform and one of the best to play the game of baseball.
Stan Musial was my childhood hero when I was a boy and he remains a hero in my life to this day. When a person reaches my age, and maybe my station in life, they are supposed to be beyond the stage of swooning adolescence. But when it comes to Stan Musial, I am a 10-year-old kid all over again in East St. Louis, IL, buying more bubble gum than I can possibly afford in the hope that I would open one of those packages and find, covered in pink powder, a card that had Stan Musial's picture. It was the treasure of my youth, and it still would be today if my mom had not thrown those cards away.
Stan Musial's death has hit the Cardinals Nation like a death in the family. One Cardinal fan spoke for many of us when she said losing Stan Musial ``is like losing a grandparent. It's hard not to tear up.'' I grew up in East St. Louis across the river, and my most prized possession when I was a kid was my very first Stan Musial Rawlings baseball glove. As a kid I rubbed that glove with something called Gloveoleum until I was the only one who could still see Stan Musial's name burned in the leather. One of the highlights in my life came 2 years ago when I got to meet Stan Musial in person for the very first time in my life. It was at the White House, February 11, 2011. Stan Musial was there to receive from President Obama the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is one of only eight other baseball players in the history of America to receive that prestigious honor. Listen to the company he joined: Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and the famous Buck O'Neill.
At the White House I stood patiently waiting for the moment to ask Stan Musial to sign that old baseball glove, which I still have and have had since I was a kid. He agreed to do so. What a thrill. I was 10 years old all over again.
Outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis is a statue of Stan ``The Man'' in his playing prime. He is coiled up in his batting style. Every coach said don't bat like Stan ``The Man,'' even though he has great numbers. If you do that, you will never hit the ball. We all tried; the coaches were right. Etched in the base of that statue are words that Major League Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick said when Stan retired in 1963: ``Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight.'' On the field and off Stan Musial was always a gentleman, always a champion. He exemplified the values of sportsmanship, discipline, hard work, grace, consistency, and a love of family. Baseball broadcaster Vince Scully, a Hall of Famer himself, once said: ``How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.'' Stan Musial played his entire 22-year career for the St. Louis Cardinals. He did take off one season in 1945 to serve our country in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His 3,026 games with the same club are second only to the 3,308 games over 23 years by Carl Yastrzemski.
When Stan Musial retired from baseball after the 1963 season, he held 29 National League records and 17 Major League records. Here are just some of his career numbers: a batting average of .331, an on-base percentage of .417, 3,630 hits, 725 doubles, 177 triples, 475 homers-- and the first homer I can ever remember seeing on television was the All-Star game in St. Louis, and darned if Stan Musial didn't get up in the 12th inning, parking a home run into the outfield stands, winning it for the National League. I couldn't have been more thrilled, my first exposure to baseball on television. He had 1,951 RBIs and 1,949 runs. He is the only baseball player to finish his career in the top 25 in all of these categories.
Where did he get that nickname? It was coined not by a Cardinals fan but by a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in May 1946, after Musial's four hits helped lead the Cardinals to a 13-to-4 drubbing of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Every time Stan Musial came to the plate, the fans in Ebbets Field said, ``Here comes the man.'' And the name stuck.
The legendary baseball writer Red Barber once described the 1947 season as ``the year all hell broke loose in baseball.'' It was the year Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball. Jackie Robinson would later recall when asked about his baseball career that it was Stan Musial and Hank Greenberg, two players who went out of their way to be friendly and encouraging in that historic and difficult year.
Maybe Stan Musial's greatest baseball day came on May 2, 1954. It was a double header in St. Louis against the New York Giants. He hit three homers in the first game and two in the second.
In 1957, Stan Musial became the first Major League Baseball player to earn the amazing salary of $100,000 a year. Two years later, when his batting average dipped to .255, it was Musial who went to the Cardinals' owners and asked them to cut his salary back to $80,000. He wasn't playing up to what he thought he had the potential to play up to.
Late in his final season, he stayed up all night waiting for the birth of his first grandchild, and the next day he became the first grandfather to ever homer in the Major Leagues. Umpires--and this says something about what a gentleman he always was--umpires never once ejected Stan Musial from a baseball game in more than 3,000 games.
On January 21, 1969, Stan Musial was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He was named on 92 percent of the ballots-- something on which to reflect after what we just went through a few weeks ago when no one made the cut for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Stan Musial was the first player to receive 300 votes on a Hall of Fame ballot.
When he retired, the St. Louis Cardinals retired his number, No. 6. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has said that when the entire Cardinals team takes the field this year, they will be wearing a No. 6 patch on their uniforms. But then he said: It will be a call for us to do our very best to live up to that high standard of excellence.
Then he added: You don't come across names like warrior, prince and knight by just having Hall of Fame statistics. It comes from making an impact in people's lives. I was in that group. Mr. Musial, I say thank you. He's a perfect example of what it means to wear this jersey.
I want to give credit to my colleague, Senator Claire McCaskill. She worked with me--in fact, she led the way in terms of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with Senator Bond, for Stan Musial. And she came up with a great idea. I don't know if it is going to go anywhere, but I am going to try to help her make it a reality. She has suggested we can honor this American hero, this regional hero and the values he stood for by naming the new bridge being built across the Mississippi River at St. Louis in honor of Stan Musial. I grew up on the Illinois side, and we kind of looked over at Missouri a little differently than most, and they looked at us a little differently too. But if there was one thing that ever united us it was baseball loyalty and Stan Musial. It is a perfect name for a bridge that spans between Illinois and Missouri in that region of the country.
I am proud to join Senator Claire McCaskill, and we will be introducing a bill to name the bridge the Stan Musial Memorial Bridge. Other legislation is being considered in the Illinois and Missouri General Assemblies at this time. I wish them the best in honoring this great man. It was my great honor to join him on that historic date when he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
(The remarks of Senator Durbin pertaining to the introduction of S. 113 and S. 114 are printed in today's Record under ``Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.'')