I figured I had written my final words about the late Stan Musial.
Let's put it in perspective. Writers wiser and a lot more prominent than I have written tributes about the late Stan the Man, the greatest Cardinal ever.
There are national magazines, books and TV documentaries in his honor. I have read or watched most of them. There's nothing I can write that has not already been written.
I am not worthy. Seriously.
Time to move on, right?
I've tried but can't.
Fact is, I could write about Stan the Man every day.
I will think about him every time a convertible circles the Busch Stadium field, or whenever I see a red sports coat, or hear harmonica music.
I will defend Stan the Man whenever there are on-line fan discussions about the greatest baseball players ever because Stan too often gets ignored.
I figured my last Stan the Man fan column was written two years ago when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The story goes: One weekday in June 2003, my daughter and I returned an autographed poster to Stan the Man Inc. headquarters in west St. Louis County. I had ordered a poster-sized replica of the famous cover of The Saturday Evening Post magazine from May 1, 1954. The cover is a painting of a young Stan in uniform signing autographs for a few young boys hanging over the dugout rail.
The framed, autographed poster was ordered on-line from Stan's memorabilia company, Stan the Man, Inc, based in west St. Louis County. Upon home delivery, there was a crack in the bottom corner of the plastic frame.
I was off work that weekday, watching my daughter, Cara, who was 9 years old at the time. I called Stan the Man Inc. and asked if I could exchange it.Sure, the return label is inside," the nice lady told me on the phone. "Ship it back. We'll send you a new one right away."
"Can I bring it back today, in person?" I asked.
"Sure," she said, surprised, and gave an address and offered directions. A few minutes later, Dad and Daughter were off on another one of Dad's spontaneous errands.
Upon our arrival, we were asked to wait in a nearby room. To our surprise, there sat Stan the Man himself, autographing baseballs.
My daughter, Cara, and I spent about fiveminutes alone with Stan the Man in a small room, talking about her curly hair and our hometown of Belleville. Looking and talking more like your grandpa than a Hall-of-Famer, he joked that every time he came to Belleville, he got lost.
I wrote in that column "There we were, in a room about the size of a classroom. Me. My daughter. Stan Musial. Surreal."
I have written before that I liked baseball and its players a lot more when all I knew about them was on the back of their baseball cards. The more I am over-exposed to the game and most of its players, the more distant I have become. But Stan the Man is the exception. Themore I learn about him, on the field and off, in life and after, the bigger fan I am.
On TV, I watched his funeral procession from the church to Busch Stadium and a stop at his statue. Thousands of fans lined the route. I thought to myself, "I will never, ever witness anything like this again in my life."
I've done something predictable over the past few months. It's become traditional when men of a certain age pass away. I scan through Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," again. I'm not a historian but I agree with Brokaw, the writer.They are, by far, the Greatest Generation.
Brokaw wrote, "They came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America -- men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement and courage gave us the world we have today."
They were our teachers, barbers, coaches, umpires, politicians, neighbors.
They are our parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and family friends.
They were Stan the Man.
Look in the newspaper every day. Unfortunately, we're losing The Greatest Generation at a rapid pace.
I am in awe of The Greatest Generation. My generation can thank them for all we have. But we don't measure even close to them in terms of leadership, loyalty and values.
What do I need to write about Stan the Man, a few months after his death and a few weeks before the start of a new baseball season?
Two words: Red Schoendienst.
Red would be the first to tell you that he pales in comparison to his former roommate and friend. But Red is special to Cardinals baseball and not only because he is from Germantown and has worn the Cardinals uniform longer than any one person.
Red is even better in real life than what's on the back of his old baseball cards.
In honor of the great Stan the Man, let's continue to show our respect, gratitude, and appreciation to his good friend and former teammate, 90-year-old Red Schoendienst. Let's cherish baseball with Red, in his red jacket or uniform, in a ballpark adorned in red.