“Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
Any Cardinals fan can tell you who those words (from former baseball commissioner Ford C. Frick) describe, and where they can be found. They’re about the greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan “The Man” Musial, and are engraved on his statue outside Busch Stadium.
Today is a monumental day for Stan the Man. He’s in Washington, D.C., with his family to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House. He’s one of 15 who will be honored, with the list including President George H.W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Maya Angelou, Warren Buffett and Boston Celtics great Bill Russell. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in the U.S.
Musial is the ninth baseball player to receive the Medal of Freedom, joining a list that includes Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams. (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a great feature on all nine players online.)
In addition to being a special day for Stan and his family, though, it’s also a special day for Cardinal Nation. Today is the final result of last year’s “Stand for Stan” campaign that was a push for him to receive this honor. It culminated with “Stand for Stan” day on Oct. 2, the final game of the regular season. In the middle of the sixth inning (Stan, of course, was No. 6), tribute was paid by the entire crowd as Stan and his wife circled the stadium track to cheers and the waving of the “Flat Stan” cutouts that were the centerpiece of the campaign. All the Cardinals and even all the Rockies were lined up outside their dugouts, with each player shaking hands with Stan as he passed by.
Those “Flat Stans” will be a part of today’s ceremony, as Stan will wear a tie featuring them that was a gift from the Cardinals.
Pausing to honor Stan Musial is a welcome break from the “Albertageddon” madness that’s taken over lately. Both the Cardinals and Albert Pujols are taking the day off from negotiations to allow Stan the respect he deserves. Perhaps it’s good, though, that the national sports media has been so focused on the Cardinals and Albert these days — because this should allow them the opportunity to highlight Stan the Man as well. That’s not always been the case, as Bernie Miklasz explains in a column today:
Hopefully this will serve to elevate Musial’s status. As we know, Musial hasn’t always gotten his due. In an embarrassing display of ignorance, fans outside of St. Louis failed to vote Musial to baseball’s All-Century team in 1999. (A panel led by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig added Musial to the team.) And Musial was snubbed when ESPN profiled the 50 greatest athletes of the 20th century. Several of Musial’s baseball contemporaries were included instead.
Miklasz also talked with Bob Costas about Stan the Man and this honor.
“There’s no perfect human being, but I have not come across anyone in sports who was closer to the image, in reality, than Stan Musial is. Who has ever emanated more decency than Stan Musial does? If you saw him play, you could always feel good about cheering him. And if you didn’t see him play, you can still feel good about admiring him to this day.”
Amen. And sincere congratulations to baseball’s perfect knight.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.