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Examiner
  • Bill Althaus: Meeting Musial an unforgettable experience

  • I’ll never forget the first, and last, time I saw Stan Musial – the legendary St. Louis Cardinals slugger who always lived up to the nickname “The Man.”

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  • I’ll never forget the first, and last, time I saw Stan Musial – the legendary St. Louis Cardinals slugger who always lived up to the nickname “The Man.”
    Back in 1968 I was a miserable 15-year-old kid whose beloved Kansas City Athletics had been moved to Oakland by the Snidely Whiplash of owners, the despicable Charlie Finley.
    I could not imagine life without baseball, so I talked my mom and dad into taking our first-ever vacation to St. Louis. I was a Cardinals fan, because they were winners, and my all-time favorite was Stan the Man.
    The Hall of Famer, who was the all-time National League hit king at the time, still worked for the Cardinals and attended many home games so I wrote a letter to Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, to see if he could arrange a meeting with the Hall of Famer.
    Much to my surprise, a few weeks later I received an official looking envelope from the Cardinals.
    Devine said he would leave five tickets for my family, arrange for me to take a tour of the field and locker room, and meet my hero if he was in town.
    My heart skipped a beat and I am sure I was doing backflips in my mind.
    I began counting down the days, the hours and the minutes until our trip to St. Louis. The Cardinals were playing the San Francisco Giants and Bob Gibson was facing Juan Marichal.
    When we arrived at Busch Stadium, our tickets were at the will call window. The attendant then called down someone from the Cardinals front office and he gave me a tour of the locker room.
    I shook hands with Lou Brock and Dal Maxvill and stood in awe as Gibson and Roger Maris walked onto the playing field.
    I stood by the batting cage as the Cardinals and Giants took their swings and I saw my mom and dad and two brothers watching from the stands.
    When we left the field, we went to the press box, where I was greeted by Devine. He said someone wanted to meet me, and I was taken back to a suite and there was Stan the Man himself.
    He seemed larger than life. He greeted me with a study handshake and I began talking about my love of the Cardinals.
    I got to watch an inning of the game with him and then returned to the seats with my parents, where we watched the rest of the game from box seats on the first base line.
    Over the next 31 years, every time I saw Musial I reminded him of that special moment, and how he made a kid from Independence feel like he was on top of the world.
    Page 2 of 2 - The last time I saw Stan the Man was 1999. I went to George Brett’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, N.Y., and the morning following the ceremony I was sitting in an airport waiting to catch my flight.
    Baseball’s new hit king, Pete Rose, walked through the airport with a group of folks who looked like rejects from Jersey Shore. He had on a pair of gold sunglasses that featured eagle talons that wrapped around his face and hugged the chrome-colored glass.
    He refused every autograph request, but made enough noise that everyone knew he was there.
    Minutes later, here came Stan the Man.
    He was in a wheelchair, and looked so frail – nothing like the vibrant larger-than-life figure I was with in the Busch Stadium press box.
    A youngster who had just been turned down by Rose approached Musial.
    Stan the Man took a card from his jacket pocket, which he had already signed, and gave it to the youngster. When the young man’s father asked for a photo, Musial slowly got out of his wheelchair and stood for a photo.
    “I’m not going to take a picture in this thing,” Musial said as he glanced at the wheelchair.
    It was hard to tell who had the bigger grin, Musial or the young fan.
    I just watched from a distance. I didn’t want to bother Musial, as several fans noticed him and he began passing out the autographed cards.
    It saddened me to learn of Musial’s passing this past weekend. He was 92 years old and one of the last of the true baseball legends. He provided a lifetime of memories on the field, and for this kid from Independence, one special moment in the Busch Stadium press box that I will treasure forever.
     
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