I know this is a little late. Sorry for that. But I still wanted to get it out there.
I really didn’t get to know Stan Musial at all. A bit like with Jack Buck, Stan was around much less by the time I got onto the beat. But I do have two memories of him, and I wanted to pass them on.
The first one is one that a lot of people share, which is cool in itself. My first year on the beat, 2002, I got to cover Ozzie Smith’s Hall of Fame induction. Made the trek to Cooperstown and all. And during the induction, as he did so many times, Musial got up in front of the microphone, whipped out his harmonica and played for the crowd.
Now, if you’re a St. Louis local, this isn’t news. I’m not. I had lived in the city for four months, and while I certainly knew Musial was an all-time great and a local icon, I didn’t know about the harmonica. I was unaware that it was his thing. So it came as a total surprise, and it was my single favorite thing about the day. Still my most vivid memory of the whole experience.
The second is a little more personal. In the spring of 2004, Musial came down to Jupiter for two days. He’d missed the previous spring for the first time in decades, but he was back, briefly, in late March of 04.
One afternoon in the press box, a Cardinals representative came up to a few reporters, very quietly, even stealthily, and tapped us on our shoulders. To each of us — and it was really only a few — he quietly asked if we were interested in interviewing Stan and Red Schoendienst.
Um, well, yeah, I think so.
So a few of us were led down a hallway and into a suite on the press box level at Roger Dean Stadium, where Stan and Red were waiting. For a few minutes, it looked a little like an interview. We asked Stan about the 2004 Cardinals, and about a still-young hitter named Pujols.
Then it got good. It turned into a storytelling session, and mayyybe just a bit of a bull session, starring the two old friends. They told stories about rooming together on the road together, about their friendly competition, about Spring Training together.
It was magnificent. Somehow, I don’t have any transcript of the day among my notes, but I was able to find the short story I wrote on it, and here’s one quip from Stan that I used. He was talking about why he enjoyed Spring Training.
“It was a fun time,” he said. “But there was another reason why I liked it. I knew before the season started I was gonna hit .340 or .350.”
Yeah, that was a pretty cool day.