I never saw Stan the Man play in the flesh, but I didn’t really need to. I saw him and the other St. Louis Cardinals through the eyes and voices of the likes of Harry Caray and Gabby Street as they called the games in the 1940s and 1950s. I never saw his famous crouching corkscrew batting stance or heard his familiar mantra, “whaddayasay-whaddayasay.”
That said, Stanley was an important part of my life, back in the Eisenhower era. I read about him, heard his exploits on the field described by the broadcasters, and conjured up a pretty accurate image of that skinny little guy with the tiny hands and the flashing bat. I knew him. He was a part of my life that was unchangeable. I believe that today’s young ones have no such hero, for my hero he was.
Lately I have been re-reading Stan Musial: An American Life, by biographer George Vecsey. It is a sympathetic screed, and it strikes a familiar chord with my memories of The Man.
Frey would never play a major-league game. Years later, as manager of the Royals and Cubs, he loved talking about the man who called himself Stanley.
“There are a few people in the world who love being themselves,” Frey said. “And I think Stan Musial is one of them.”
Most of all he loved being Stanley. It was his stage name, self-perpetuated. To others he was Stan or Stash or Stan the Man. (A woman of a certain age on the Main Line in Philadelphia told me recently that as a teenager she thought of him as Stanley the Manly; she liked his, um, batting stance, the way he wiggled.) However, in his finest moments he referred to himself as Stanley.
What more can I say about this decent man who so many people loved? More to the point, maybe I have said enough for now. Read the book, you baseball fans, and forget about all the recent dirt that is being wrung out of the game. I will mercifully forego the temptation to editorialize on today’s game of baseball.
Dave, thinking fondly back to simpler times.