-Now that the All-Star game hoopla is over here in St. Louis, I have only one question to ask--
"Who the hell was responsible for the so-called tribute to Stan Musial?"
What an opportunity Major League Baseball had to recognize one of the game's all-time greats on a national stage befitting his accomplishments. What an opportunity...that was totally and disgracefully botched. It wasn't fitting...it was a misfit. The Man was reduced to a sidebar on the evening. If we were expecting something on the order of the Ted Williams tribute of ten years ago, we had another thing coming. And, unfortunately, it did.
I'll admit that I was sitting there in my home theater expecting to see Stan come out in a golf cart to the accolades of the thousands in the stadium. I was already beginning to choke up in anticipation of what was about to come. But that was it. That was all. The people were gathered and told to expect a tribute. But there was nothing else...except a handshake and hello from our sitting President. Come on. As Bob Costas said on the Channel 2 pre-game show, this is one of the top ten, at least, position players of all time. Aside from that, he is thought of by me, and most of the men and women in this part of America of my age, as not only a great player of the game...but as a greater player in the game of life. He has carried himself with an uncommon grace and dignity that is rarely seen in an athlete. Even if you don't recognize his accomplishments as a player, you should his contributions to society.
I think as much as anyone Stan Musial could be responsible for the Midwest tradition of cordial behavior toward one's fellow man. He was the face of Cardinals baseball in the era when baby boomers were just learning the game and life's rules. He showed us that we could compete with ferocity, but also enjoy and respect one's competitors. He proved that being a man isn't always about who is strongest, toughest and most intimidating. His time in the spotlight of this region was as much a lesson about respectable human behavior as it was athletic excellence. We in the Midwest embraced The Man and his approach. Many of us carry it in our DNA.
This night in July should have been Stan's night. The other Cardinals Hall-of-Famers no doubt would agree and would have gladly surrendered any time for their own recognition so that somebody could have put together a fitting video tribute to accompany Stan's entrance to the field. 90 seconds...just 90 seconds of time devoted to highlights, statistics, and tributes from those who could adequately express a bit of gratitude would have changed everything and allowed those of us who had Kleenex ready to let loose.
I, of course, don't know who was responsible for putting the pre-game show together. But I'll bet it was someone at the Commissioner's level (under 50 years old) and not anyone with the Cardinals. It had to be someone who just doesn't get it. Someone who thought that carting this 88-year-old former player onto the field in front of the crowd and on national TV and letting him hand a baseball to Mr. Obama was a tribute. That's not a tribute. It's merely recognition. I know one thing. If Jim Woodcock, one of the very best at understanding what the fans want and an advisor to the Cardinals, were involved, or had his way, it would have been different. Woody has put together some of the very best ceremonies of all time for the Cardinals and the Blues. If he, or someone who has a clue about the love we in this part of the country carry around for Stan, were involved, it would have had a chance to hit the mark. Apprently the lieutenants at the Commissioner's office are oblivious. The whole theme of the evening -Heroes Among Us- up to the point that Stan was brought onto the field was wonderful. Too bad they didn't realize that to a large percentage of those at Busch Stadium and at home The Man is our hero.
Unfortunately, we don't know how long we still have to enjoy Stan. As with all people of his age, a small ailment can turn fatal. And he hasn't been in the best of health for a while now. So, how will this wrong be righted while he can still be a part of a fitting tribute? How can we turn this dismal whiff by MLB into a grand slam for Stan? How can we turn this negative into a positive? It must be done.