God bless Stan Musial, who died on this day in 2013.
What an honor to know him, spend time with him, write about him and be at the White House covering the ceremony the day he received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
“There’s my Polish uncle,” I often said to Stan when I saw him.
“There’s my Polish cousin,” he replied with a laugh.
He made me proud to be a Polish-American.
Heck, he made me proud to be an American — period.
I wrote this on the night of his death.
I wrote this the night before his White House ceremony at a desk in my DC hotel. As for the ceremony, it was a beautiful day filled with glorious sunshine and living symbols of America’s strength, achievement and dignity. It was a better place in our time, when greatness had a touch of humility and grace. On a personal note—forgive me—I had the chance to meet John Lewis, chat a little baseball with Warren Buffet, and say hello to noted Houston Astros fan George HW Bush, our 41st president.
After the ceremony, I wrote this: “As soon as he was wheeled into the White House, Musial pulled out his trusty harmonica to entertain welcoming members of Obama’s staff with some favorite tunes, including Stan the Man’s most precious chestnuts, ‘Take Me to the ball game.’
And Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told me: “Stan was really on his game today. It was something else. At the end of the reception, with everyone walking around, Stan picked up his harmonica and played a few tunes. Everyone came to him and gathered around him. It was really awesome.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Obama said: “Stan remains an icon to this day, untouched; a beloved pillar of the community; a gentleman you would want your children to emulate.”
Musial made so many people happy – on that day, every day, until his last day on earth.
I was moved to tears after the ceremony—when Stan de Man was asked in front of the White House what the medal meant to him. A little restrained as the emotions hit him, Stan said quietly, “This is the best day I’ve had in my life.”
He was one of the greatest men in our lives.
We miss him, always.
And baseball misses him too.
As the man said:
“I came up in 1941 and played against men who played in the 1930s. I continued to play until 1963 against men who will play in the 1970s. So I think I can feel qualified to say that baseball was a really great game, and baseball is a really great game, and baseball will always be a great game.”