God Bless Stan Musial, who died on this day in 2013.
What an honor it was to know him, spend time with him, write about him, and be at the White House to cover the ceremony on the day he received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
“There’s my Polish uncle,” I would often tell Stan when I saw him.
“There’s my Polish nephew,” he’d respond back, laughing.
He made me proud to be a Polish-American.
Heck, he made me proud to be an American — period.
This is what I wrote on the evening of his passing.
This is what I wrote the night before his White House ceremony at a desk in my D.C. hotel. As for the ceremony, it was a wonderful day filled with glorious sunshine and living symbols of America’s strength, achievement and dignity. It was a better place in our time, when greatness had touches of humility and grace. On a personal note — forgive me — I had a chance to meet John Lewis, talk a little baseball with Warren Buffet, and say hello to noted Houston Astros fan George H.W. Bush, our 41st President.
After the ceremony, I wrote this: “As soon as he was wheeled into the White House, Musial pulled out his trusty harmonica to entertain welcoming members of Obama’s staff with some favorite ditties, including that most precious of Stan the Man’s chestnuts, ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’
And Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told me: “Stan was really on his game today. It was something else. At the end of the reception, with everyone milling around, Stan took out his harmonica and played a few tunes. Everyone came up and stood around him. It was really terrific.”
During the ceremony, Obama said, “Stan remains, to this day, an icon, untarnished; a beloved pillar of the community; a gentleman you’d want your kids to emulate.”
Musial made so many people happy — on that day, on every day, until his final day on earth. In many ways, I believe that this is his true legacy — to bring joy to any space he entered. And to give countless numbers of fans and admires a precious memory that they could embrace in their hearts forever.
I was moved to tears after the ceremony — when, in front of the White House — Stan the Man was asked what the medal meant to him. Holding back a little as the emotions got to him, Stan quietly said “This is the greatest day I had in my life.”
Think about that. As I wrote hours later from my post-ceremony hotel room:
“For Musial to declare that this was the best day of his life … wow. Can we even contemplate – let alone count – the number of extraordinary days Musial has enjoyed in his long, illustrious time on earth? The three World Series, the seven batting titles, the three MVPs, the 24 All-Star Games, the 3,630 hits, the 475 homers, the first-ballot Hall of Fame selection.
“Lots of happy days in there. And this was No. 1 on his list. Which is marvelous. Because this is what we all wanted for Musial. We wanted this to be a glorious day for him. Because Musial deserved all of it: the medal, the acclaim, the attention, the affection.”
He was one of the greatest men in our lives.
We miss him, always.
And baseball misses him, too.
As The Man said:
“I came up in 1941 and I played against men who played in the 1930s. I stayed until 1963 playing against men who will be playing in the 1970s. So I think I can feel qualified to say that baseball really was a great game, and baseball is really a great game, and baseball will always be a great game.”
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.