ST. LOUIS — Pews of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis were filled nearly to the brim Saturday morning as family, friends, fans, city officials and Cardinals of past and present said one final goodbye to Stan the Man Musial.
Musial, who died Jan. 19, played 22 years of brilliant baseball and lived 92 years as a decent human being, said sportscaster Bob Costas.
Musial lacked one single moment of baseball greatness, making him a somewhat forgotten hero across most of the nation, "as if thousands of picture-perfect moments weren't enough," Costas said.
But he remained a hero in St. Louis.
"He remained the perfect embodiment of baseball in a city where baseball mattered most," Costas said.
Other than his distinctive stance and one of the best nicknames in baseball, Musial may be known for a record of the most autographs signed and most spirits lifted, Costas said.
Before the 11 a.m. funeral Mass began, traditional dark attire was adorned with bright red pops of colors: scarves, ties and small number "6," commemorating the Man's Cardinals jersey number.
Cardinals of past and present who attended included Joe Torre, Mike Matheny, Jim Edmonds and Jason Motte. Former general manager Walt Jocketty sat next to former manager Tony La Russa. Albert Pujols shared a pew with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.
At 10:30 a.m., ushers allowed inside more than three dozen fans, who had waited outside, patiently, in the cold, for the chance to fill an empty pew. Their reward was a front-row seat to say goodbye to a Cardinals legend.
The Most Rev. Richard Stika, the bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., gave the homily, because he knew Musial and his late wife, Lil, from when Stika was in St. Louis. He talked about Musial, a devout Catholic with Polish heritage, who had a friendship with Pope John Paul II.
Stika said that he doesn't know if a movie ever will be made about Musial, but he hopes that a new local bridge may carry his name. The church erupted in applause at the idea to name the new bridge over the Mississippi River in honor of the baseball legend. "If there are any politicians here, I hope you heard that," he said.
Musial was a father of four, a grandfather of 11, a great-grandfather of 12, and a friend to thousands, Stika said.
After weekly Mass, other churchgoers often helped Musial place his wife's wheelchair in the trunk of his car, Stika explained. When the trunk opened, Stan started dishing out signed souvenirs. And the church was filled with laughter because Musial was known to have given out more signatures than most other baseball stars.
"I have three or four myself," Stika said. And everyone laughed again.
Andrew Edmonds, one of Musial's grandchildren, said he knew Lil and Stan as "Sugar" and "Pappo." He will remember his grandfather's kindness to strangers. "I encourage everyone listening to follow Stan's example," he said.
Martin Schwarze, Musial's son-in-law, said Musial was known internationally. There is a baseball field named after Musial in Poland, the same country where he won an award similar to the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, which Musial also was awarded. In addition, Musial was well known in Japan. And in 1986, when Musial joined family on a trip to Australia, a store clerk said to Schwarze, "Hey mate, don't look now but I think that's Stan the Man!" Of course, Musial gave the clerk an autographed baseball card.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a St. Louis native and helped preside during the funeral Mass. He was impressed that the Musial family chose to share the private service with the rest of the city by allowing it to be aired on television and open to the media. "St. Louis was his family," Dolan said.
Dolan said in New York, "we're all in mourning," about Musial. In the last week, he has heard tons of Musial stories because the Big Apple is where Stan the Man's nickname was earned.
Bill DeWitt, the chairman of the Cardinals, said Musial's performance on the field filled record books, but his time off the field was even more memorable.
Musial stayed in St. Louis, not just for his baseball career, but for the rest of his life, calling the city home. He made numerous hospital visits, hosted charity golf tournaments and dinners, and served as chairman for dozens of events.
"His spirit will endure and we will never forget Stan the Man," DeWitt said.
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at email@example.com or 618-239-2460.
Red jacket-wearing Cardinal legends were on hand to honor Musial, including Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Lou Brock and Red Schoendienst.