ST. LOUIS — Stan Musial's fans bundled up and waited in 25 degree temperatures Thursday outside of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis for the chance to tell their hero good-bye.
Dan Mount, 63, who was born and raised in Granite City, recalled going with his dad, James, to Sportsman's Park to watch "Stan the Man" play.
"He gave an awful lot to this area. My father was a great fan of his. I'm a great fan of his. And after all he's done for us, it was the least I could do to come say 'thanks' to him," Mount said. "I saw him play starting when I was in Little League in 1956. I saw him hit a few balls off the screen in right field. It was a thrill. But it's also nice to know he was a great person off the field, too."
At 2 p.m. when the doors opened, the line already was snaking out of the Cathedral Basilica down Lindell Boulevard.
Inside the building, some fans wearing Cardinals jerseys with Musial's number 6 on the back and others wearing red Cardinals caps and jackets, spoke in hushed tones about Musial's many contributions to St. Louis on and off the field.
The line wound around pews and into a chapel on the west side of the building where Musial, who missed the 1945 baseball season to serve in the Navy during World War II, lay guarded by two seamen in blue dress uniforms, one at each end of his casket.
Musial was laid out in his familiar red blazer he wore when he appeared at Busch Stadium before Cardinals games, often riding around the warning track on a golf cart while waving to cheering fans. He wore a red tie with the Cardinals logo on it.
John Mulcrone, 63, of Highland, said he lived in Detroit as a kid. But he came to the St. Louis area to stay with his cousins during summers. During those trips he got to go see the Cardinals play and he grew up to root for the Redbirds instead of his hometown Tigers.
"Stan was always my hero growing up," said Mulcrone, who moved to Highland in 1999. "I remember going to watch the Cardinals play against the Milwaukee Braves at Sportsman's Park and getting to see not only Stan Musial, but also Henry Aaron. That was quite a thrill."
Mulcrone said he got a Stan Musial model Rawlings glove for his 14th birthday, a present that he cherishes to this day.
"I still have it," Mulcrone said. "I even got it autographed a few years ago."
St. Louisan Ric Annelo, 64, paused several times to fight back tears while talking about Musial.
"It started with my grandfather and then my dad and then me. My whole family loves Stan Musial," Annelo said. "He was not just a great ballplayer. He was a very special person."
Annelo said he remembers his father, who everyone called "Papa Joe," taking him to see the Cardinals play.
"We go to the game and he would sit behind a post" in an obstructed view seat because it was cheaper, Annelo said. "And he would let me sit in the seat next to him where I could see."
Mount, who now lives in Springfield, Ill., said the trip to pay respects to his boyhood hero was well worth the three-hour drive back and forth and a wait of more than an hour in icy temperatures.
"I think it was very well done," Mount said. "It was very respectful and I'm glad that I came."
Musial, 92, died Saturday at his home in St. Louis. His funeral to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday is private, but a procession will follow and the family will stop at his statue outside Busch Stadium before continuing to the cemetery for his burial.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 618-239-2626.