Former Yankees beat writer Murray Chass wrote a few days ago one of the most disgusting things I've ever read.
It was a character assassiation attempt of Cardinals slugger Stan Musial who is universally renowned as one of baseball's all-time good guys. In the 1950s Cubs fans were polled to name their favorite player in the major leagues and they overwhelmingly chose Musial. Cubs fans! But now, after Stan built a sparkling reputation for 90 years, some hack is going to sling mud at him?
The heart of the hatchet job was a nugget from former Major League union chief Marvin Miller in which he claimed Curt Flood (an African American who played for the Cardinals from 1959-69, a time in which Musial was a Cardinals player, a vice president and the club's general manager) told him 40 years or so ago that Stan the Man was a racist who wouldn't let black people into the St. Louis restaurant he co-owned.
This story flies in the face of everything I have ever heard about Musial, specifically that he was the voice of reason in 1947 in convincing many of his southern born teammates to drop plans to boycott a game against the Dodgers if Jackie Robinson attempted to play. Willie Mays is known to have stated repeatedly that Musial was one of the first white players to reach out to him after he broke into the majors. Yet Chass claims Musial shouldn't have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom because he is a racist?
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It just didn't make sense.
From the minute I read that story over the weekend I waited anxiously to call Curt Flood Jr. this morning to see if he could shed some light on the story. While I waited for it to reach a reasonable time of day to call his Los Angeles area home, I surfed the net and found others had take up the cause.
Fortunately, I was beaten to the punch by NBC Sports which published a comment from Curt Flood's son on its web site. (I think it's better that a national news source took up the cause because, as a Musial fan, their word carries a lot more weight than mine.)
According to Flood Jr. he personally knows Musial and is certain that Stan the Man isn't a racist. He also said that, not only does he believe the 1965 incident at Stan Musial and Biggie's restaurant was the work of a snooty maitre d and not the baseball superstar who basically only lent his name to the restaurant and didn't operate it on a day-to-day basis -- he said Musial was personally contacted and sorted the matter out. Unfortunately, Flood and his party were justifiably upset by the time the situation was worked out and they left.
I had doubts from the start about the report, not only because of glaring factual errors and the flimsiest of sourcing. But the simple fact is that Curt Flood was a civil rights activist and a man who stood up for what he believed in to the point that he sacrificed his major league career to fight baseball's reserve clause. Does ANYONE on the planet believe that if he thought Musial was a racist that he wouldn't have said anything publicly about it? This hurts me as a Cardinals fan because I know, as a kind and conscientious man, that it certainly hurts Musial. So I'm glad that Flood Jr. spoke up about it.
Here's what Flood Jr. had to say to NBC:
Let me say at the outset that I have been in Musial’s company on several occasions. I once even sat next to him at a Cardinals Old Timers Game” in the dugout at the old Busch Stadium for about an an hour. He was warm, gracious and said things about my father that were beautiful. He also graciously signed everything that i could find that was not nailed down. Stan Musial is a good, decent and honorable man.
I have not read Mr. Chass’s blog, however, the incident DID in fact happen to my father and my mother. But according to my parents, Mr. Musial was not in the restaurant. His doorman that night called Mr. Musial by telephone, but by the time it could (be) rectified, my parents were pretty much fed up with not being fed up.
Curt Flood, Jr.