We unexpectedly lost my Uncle Chuck this past week and, ironically, one of his heroes passed away a day or two later.
As a child, I would visit my grandparents' house and often slept in the room that my father and his brother shared. I can remember one of the wall decorations was the logo of the St. Louis Cardinals.
It’s not hard to understand why brothers growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s in Philadelphia would wander away from being fans of the local Philadelphia baseball teams. With the exception of the magic they created in 1950, the Phillies fielded some pretty awful teams during that era. The Philadelphia Athletics were even worse, often finishing in eighth place out of eight teams in the American League.
The Cardinals have always had one of the greatest logos in sports featuring two bright red birds perched upon a baseball bat. The color and the logo was almost enough to make you like the team. The fact that the Cardinals usually had one of the National League’s best teams each season (especially in the 1940’s), made it even easier to adopt them as the team to root for.
And then there was “The Man.” Stan “The Man” Musial…who quietly led the franchise to much of it’s great success. Stan played for the Cardinals (and ONLY The Cardinals) from 1941 to 1963. You don’t see that type of longevity with a franchise these days regardless of what sport you’re talking about.
Musial was a 24 time all-star and led the league in batting average an incredible seven times. He helped the Cardinals win 3 World Series Championships in the 1940’s and is easily considered the city’s greatest sports legend.
Nationally, I think Musial received great respect for his accomplishments, but I do think he was underrated by a sports society who would sing about “Willie, Mickey and the Duke.”
Then again, I think it’s quite a complement to be referred to as simply…"The Man."
Knowing he was battling many health concerns over the past few years, it wasn’t a tremendous shock to me to hear of Stan’s passing. But, it does continue to signify the passing of the greatest eras in baseball history.
As each of our legends pass, the past seems even more distant than ever...and the game will never be the same as it was “back in the day”.
Goodbye to Stan “The Man” and goodbye to my Uncle Chuck. You both will be missed by many.
copyright 2013 Bill Mattis ALL RIGHTS RESERVED