Musial the main focus at Cardinals' fan festival

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm •  Published: January 20, 2013
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"Most of the people here, their memories of him are as a person and not a Hall of Fame player," Dunseth said. "This is just kind of a spontaneous buy. I think it's worth it."

Inside the fan fest, those who knew Stan the Man best validated the outpouring of emotion.

Longtime former manager Tony La Russa ranks Musial in the upper echelon of players along with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Off the field, La Russa has an even greater appreciation.

La Russa, who collected celebrity pals during his 16-year stint as manager, recalled author John Grisham and his father being touched by the chance to meet Musial a few years ago.

"They're sitting in my office and here comes Stan," La Russa said. "Grisham told me later on, as they left the ballpark his dad said 'My life is complete. I just met Stan Musial.'"

Musial had been in poor health for several years.

"Anybody who knows him knows the quality of life was not good," La Russa said. "I remember it was like with Jack (Buck), you got so selfish. You knew he was suffering but you definitely didn't want to lose him."

Again and again, Musial was remembered as a superstar with no sense of entitlement or worries about privacy. Though Musial marketed autographs with a business partner in Stan the Man, Inc., he had no qualms about signing in abundance for free.

"You see players today that are somewhat stingy with autographs, trying to maintain value or for whatever reason," DeWitt said. "Stan could care less about the value of his autograph. Whoever wanted, he would give it because he wanted to make them happy."

Coming up, Cardinals prospects knew Musial was the one to emulate. Outfielder-first baseman Allen Craig met Musial in La Russa's office a few years ago.

"I think his nickname says it all," Craig said. "We lost an all-time great."

Center fielder Jon Jay grew up in Miami, a city that he said lacked a "rich baseball tradition."

"What Stan stood for, he's a role model for everyone," Jay said. "I know he's resting in peace."