The number is sacred here in St Louis.
It’s the number my daughter wears on her Softball uniform; her soccer jersey too.
It’s the reason why I dragged my son and his sister downtown on a 30-degree day in late January to witness a Memorial to “the Man” who has made that number famous throughout the Midwest.
Stan Musial’s #6 was retired after the 1963 baseball season, his last for the St. Louis Cardinals where he played his entire 22 year career. He was my Grandpa’s favorite player, my Dad’s other hero, a man that I heard story after story about, and now, 50 years later, my daughter knows so much about him, she requests the number from her Softball Coach. Think about that, a half century after “Stan the Man” played his final game, an 8-year old girl knows to ask for his number. Welcome to St. Louis! Welcome to a city that understands how lucky we were to have Stan Musial as a part of our community for the past 70 plus years.
So, Mr. Musial, now that you’ve entered Baseball Heaven, this is a thank you note from a fan. A fan, who never saw you play in person, but appreciates all that you’ve done for my family, my team, my city, my country.
Thank you for the thrills you gave my Grandfathers who witnessed you lead their team (now, my team) to 3 World Championships. Say “hi” to both of them for us all down here on earth too. We miss them.
Thank you for staying with the Cardinals for your entire career, so that my Dad could see you play as a kid. I can only imagine the experience of a Father and Son going to a game together and watching the greatest player to ever wear the Cardinal uniform. I’ve heard the stories, and admittedly, I’m jealous. I hoped I might be able to share similar experiences with my son, but that hope decided to join the Angels on Earth, whereas only the Angels in Heaven could take you from our daily lives.
Thank you for serving our country, taking a year out of your baseball life, in your sports prime. You, both of my Grandpas and many, many others like you defended freedom against the bad guys of your time.
Thank you for making the entire country take note that baseball is played in cities not named New York and Boston. St. Louis is dead center, middle of the country, just like you liked your fastballs which you turned around for 3,630 hits, a National League record when you last picked up a bat. St. Louis is easy to lose on a map. We don’t have a Green Monster like that on Yawkey Way in Beantown nor the Green Monsters (Billions of them) like that in the high rise Office Buildings on Wall Street or that fund the Yankee Roster. Our color is Red. Thank you for leaving your Northeastern home and becoming one of us.
Thank you for the example you set for others that followed your career, that you can be married for 72 years to the same woman, believe in a higher power, be flawed of course, but set about as good as example of what it’s like to be a better person, than most, if not all, who perform in the public eye. Thank you for being a role model to my Dad and many others of his generation. You positively affected more than just the scoreboard. You made us all better people.
Thank you for granting an interview request and autograph to this one time Sports Journalist many years ago. I was fortunate to interview some amazing people during my very brief 3-year Sportscaster career. And, I can say, with no hesitation that my most fond memory was at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. You and your buddy, Jack Buck, sat down with me to conduct an interview. I was as nervous as a Rookie in his first At Bat. There I was, interviewing the man who I grew up listening to…and THE MAN that I grew up hearing about. I’ve only asked for two autographs in my life. Both were from you: one on a baseball for my Dad, the other on a baseball for my Grandpa. You, of course, signed and personalized both. I cannot thank you enough for that kind gesture.
Thank you for taking part in introducing me to my first love. The year was 1978. I was getting ready to enter thru the Busch Stadium Gates for the first time when my Dad walked me to THE STATUE, as it’s known in St. Louis. It’s of course a statue of you. This is where he first told me all about you. With tears in his eyes, he said “Jeff, you should have seen him play. There will never be another like him.” And, sure enough, there hasn’t been. You were a big reason why my Dad loves the game of baseball. And, thus, you are a big reason why I love the game. And, continuing, you are a big reason why my kids love the game. The inscription on your statue quoting former MLB Commissioner, Ford C. Frick, says it all, “here stands baseball’s perfect warrior, here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
And, lastly, thank you for allowing the City of St. Louis to mourn and celebrate your life this past week. You did not consider us strangers and we considered you a part of our family. Thank you for allowing me to introduce you to my wife on our wedding night. Thank you for allowing me to share your life with my little ones this past weekend. My son says to me, “Dad, how did Stan the Man have the same amount of hits on the road and at home? Did he do that on purpose? I mean, Dad 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road is pretty cool.” My daughter responded for me, “Cooper, he was THE MAN. He always did the right thing. Always!”
And, so we leave your Statue where the three of us say our Final Good Bye. We’re off to the Sporting Goods store to order their uniforms for the upcoming season. My little girl walks up to the register where the clerk says, “Alright, what number do you want young lady?” She turns her head towards a replica 1944 Cardinal’s jersey hanging on the wall, turns back to the clerk and says …
“Sir, I’d like
Thank you Stan the Man.”
A St. Louisan, a Cardinal Fan, and a Dad
Jeff Smith is a Dad first, Coach second. A former Sportscaster and Play-by-Play Announcer, he lives to give his kids the true spirit of sports and a strong foundation as truly good people. No matter what his career path, his priority has always been clear: his family. This site has been lucky enough to have him writing his regular Daddy Diary since its inception.
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