In almost all ways, Stan Musial was the perfect template for what we want a a star athlete to be — excellence and amazing consistency on the field, wonderful connection with fans and loyalty, his demeanor masking his greatness.
That template rarely exists nowadays among "the famous."
It's appropriate that "The Man" nickname was given by hated rivals of the Cardinals — Brooklyn Dodger fans.
Consistency? He had 1,815 hits on the road and 1,815 hits at home — a symmetrical achievement probably unmatched in sports.
He was never ejected from a game and always introduced himself to opposing catchers who were rookies. He played 22 seasons for the same team without a hint of scandal and had the same image in retirement.
He batted .300 or better six straight seasons, appeared in 24 All-Star games, seven World Series, was part of three World Series champions and earned three MVP awards. He never struck out even 50 times in a season.
But that's just on the field. I grew up in Cardinal Country, where Musial was on a pedestal that never got tarnished. Even Cardinalhaters admired and respected Musial. I never heard a harsh word said against him except in frustration at his heroics and something like, "Damn Musial, why does he have to get the big hit against us all the time."
Here's also what I heard from people who had firsthand encounters from Stan The Man.
He never refused an autograph, sometimes furnishing a folded $1 bill with it.
I knew folks whose son would write a fan letter and would receive not only an answer but an autographed picture.
I knew people who would walk up to him during an appearance and he always seemed to have time.
I don't know how many people told me he was one of the nicest gentlemen (and especially celebrities) they had ever met.
I knew people who dined at his restaurant in St. Louis and who did not know Musial personally but were blown away when he would visit their table and engage in conversation.
He was a champion in about every way you can categorize it.
And one of the best descriptions of his degree of excellence came from fellow Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, one of the greatest and most unhittable pitchers of the era. On handling Musial, Spahn said he would have to have total focus, then, he said he’d throw him his best pitch and then go back up third base.
Yep. He was "The Man."