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Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial dies

12:26 PM, Jan 20, 2013   |    comments
Legendary St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial died at his home outside St. Louis Saturday evening, January 19, 2013. He was 92. (Getty Images)
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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) -- Stan Musial, "baseball's perfect knight," has died. The beloved Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer passed away Saturday at his Ladue home surrounded by family. He was 92.

Musial had been living in hospice care in recent years following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's. He died at 5:45 p.m. of natural causes, according to grandson Brian Schwarze.

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"We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family," said William DeWitt Jr., Chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals. "Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball."

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay ordered all flags at city buildings and facilities be lowered to half staff in honor of Musial. In a blog post Saturday night, Mayor Slay lamented that the city lost "its own favorite son."

In a statement released late Saturday to news outlets, Sen. Claire McCaskill said, "There will never be another one like him. Heaven is now home to the perfect swing, the ready smile, and some darn fine harmonica tunes."

"Stan "The Man" was born Stanislaw Franciszek Musial on November 21, 1920, in the rural town of Donora, Pennsylvania, located 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed Musial to their Class D affiliate in Pennsylvania in 1937. They intended the 17-year-old Musial to be a pitcher. Musial rose through the Cardinals' affiliate teams in West Virginia, Dayton Beach, Columbus and Springfield over the next few years. He made his Major League debut on September 17, 1941 at Sportsman's Park.

Just a few years into his Major League career, Musial took time away to answer the call to military service during World War II. He missed the entire 1945 season while serving with the U.S. Navy.

Stan Musial returned from military service the following year and continued to be an all-around threat on the diamond. His hitting prowess was as respected as it was feared by opposing teams and fans.

"Perhaps the most talented ballplayer I ever had the privilege of seeing," former Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray once said. "And talent, not only because he could hit the ball, he could run like the devil, he was great defensively, he didn't have the greatest throwing arm in the world, but as he got older his arm got stronger...He was close to the epitome of overall baseball skill."

Musial earned his famous nickname during a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the summer of 1946. As the story goes, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch overheard Dodger fans hollering at Musial whenever he'd approach the batter's box. The reporter later asked a Dodgers team official what the fans were saying. "Here comes 'The Man'," the team official said. The reporter used the nickname in a story about Musial, and it stuck.

Former Cardinals player and current television broadcaster Mike Shannon recalls a nationwide poll was run in the early 1960s--while President Kennedy was still in office--asking people to name the most trusted man in America. Despite the presence of generals, noted political leaders, members of the clergy, etc., Shannon says Stan Musial trumped them all.

Musial was an "unbelievably perfect person," according to Shannon, and forever remained "a true gentleman."

Stan Musial retired September 29, 1963. The Cardinals immediately retired his number '6' jersey, the first player accorded that honor in franchise history. Stan "The Man" held or shared numerous records at the time of his retirement: 17 major league records, 29 National League records and nine All-Star Game records. An enduring testament to his character both on and off the field, Musial was never ejected in 3,026 games.

"When Musial retired, I cried in every ballpark in the National League, every place they went," said longtime Cardinals announcer Jack Buck in an interview appearing on Ball Talk: Baseball's Voices of Summer. "The last trip in, they'd honor him. I'd cry. He didn't cry."

A 24-time All-Star, he finished his career with a .331 batting average, 3,630 hits and 475 home runs. The list of Musial's NL records includes: games (3,026), runs scored (1,949), hits (3,630), doubles (725) and RBIs (1,951).

Musial was a first ballot entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

When Major League Baseball sought to name its All-Century Team in 1999, an expert panel named Musial as one of its 100 nominees for the team. An online fan vote confirmed Musial's place as one of the 30 players selected for the All-Century Team.

After being inducted into the Hall of Famous Missiourians in 2000, a bronze bust of Stan Musial was placed on display at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

President Barack Obama presented Stan Musial with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on February 15, 2011, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian.

"His brilliance came in blinding bursts," said President Obama. "Stan Musial made that brilliance burn for two decades."

Stan Musial met his wife, Lillian Labash, as a teenager living in Donora. They married in Florida in May 1940. Lillian Musial died May 3, 2012 at 91. The couple was married for 71 years.

Brian Schwarze said his grandfather, who became his best friend over the years, taught him many life lessons. One of the more important lessons was tied back to his grandparents.

According to Schwarze, Lillian Musial died at 6 p.m. Stan passed at 5:45 p.m. He said the family always believed Stan would pass at 6 p.m., like his wife, but Schwarze added, "one of his life lessons to me was, 'If you're not 15 minutes early, you're late."

Upon hearing about Musial's death, former Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols tweeted, "Just heard Stan Musial has passed. Pretty sad. Thanks for everything, 'The Man'." Pujols, much beloved by Cardinal Nation, understood and revered Musial's place with the team and city. He refused to be called "El Hombre," Spanish for "The Man," out of deference to Musial.

Funeral arrangements for Musial have not been finalized. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Covenant House or charity of the fan's choice in the name of Stan Musial. The Cardinals have set up a memorial site around the Musial Statute at Gate 3 at Busch Stadium, which will remain in place until a later date.

(KSDK St. Louis)

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