A day in Baseball Heaven, with baseball’s newest angel

%3Cem%3EPhoto+by+Brett+McMillan%3C%2Fem%3E%0ABusch+Stadium+sits+poised+for+game+four+of+the+2012+NLCS+between+the+Cardinals+and+San+Francisco+Giants.+Stan+%22The+Man%22+Musial+was+driven+around+the+warning+track+shortly+before+first+pitch.+It+was+his+final+appearance+at+a+St.+Louis+Cardinal+game.

Photo by Brett McMillan Busch Stadium sits poised for game four of the 2012 NLCS between the Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. Stan "The Man" Musial was driven around the warning track shortly before first pitch. It was his final appearance at a St. Louis Cardinal game.

Morgan Woolard | Lindenlink Contributor

 

The Grand Entry:

Sirens start blaring and the mile of cars before me begin to part like

the red sea.

 

I was not being rushed to the hospital, I had not been arrested and I

was not partaking in a high speed chase.

 

There I was, sitting directly behind the oldest living Cardinal and

baseball legend, Stan “The Man” Musial riding his coat tail for a

police escort to the game.

 

I needed somebody to pinch me.

 

As we arrived at the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinal’s 2012 home opener, the police step out of their car to shake Stan’s hand. The look

on the two officers faces was as if they were 8-year-old boys again.

 

“Give them a ball,” Stan’s daughter, Janet Scwharze said.

 

Brian Swarzche, Stan’s grandson, caretaker and Vice President of Stan

the Man Inc. pops the trunk open revealing stacks of Musial signed baseballs.

 

As Stan was helped out of his black BMW and onto the golf cart to be escorted to the Clubhouse, a mob of Cardinal fans flocked to the gated fence. It was like a scene from the Gospels. They moved to Stan as the lepers moved toward Jesus.

 

“Stan the Ladies Man”:

 

Because of the rain delay, Stan had two hours to kill before he

and the Hall of Famers would take the field. David Freese, World

Series MVP, joined us in the manager’s office and took a seat in the

recliner next to the couch.

 

“Can I take a picture?” asked photographer Ali Quadar.

 

With a smile, Freese and I traded places, he moving from the recliner

to the couch and I, from the couch to the recliner. After a couple

shots, Freese returned to the recliner and I returned to my spot on

the couch next to Stan as if we were playing musical chairs.

 

Stan smiled as I sat down for our picture to me taken.

 

“Of course you smile for the pretty girl,” Brian said. “Stan’s

always loved blondes.” Stan’s grandaughter, Julie Linihan, his daughter

Janet Schwarze and his wife, Lillian Musial all flaunt naturally golden

locks.

 

“Grandma was a gorgeous blonde,” Brian said. “She always joked that

she got him before he knew any better.”

 

Stan and Lillian Musial met at fourteen years old, started dating at

sixteen and were married at nineteen.

 

“He and grandma were high school sweethearts,” Brian said.

“She always said she got him through his stomach because her family

owned a grocery store.”

 

After their first date, Lillian brought Stan to her father’s

store and started feeding him meat. Stan was not used to this kind of

luxury, so she just kept slicing, and Stan kept eating. She couldn’t

get him to leave after that.

 

“Their outlook on life has always been funny,” Brian said.

 

Stan and Lillian were married on November 21 1939, which is also

Stan’s birthday. Lillian, or “Sugar,” as she is known by her family,

joked that it was the worst mistake of her life because November 21st

was never about their anniversary and always about Stan’s birthday.

 

That was never a true issue in the Musial house though. Nothing was ever too big for Lil and Stan to work through.

 

“The people from the WWII era actually work through stuff instead of

immediately jumping ship,” Brian said. “Grandma jokes about how

during their 70 years of marriage, Stan used to want to pack his bags

and leave and now she packs his bags for him and he won’t leave.”

 

Stan and Lillian have been married for 72 years. Lillian has never

had to work a day in her life, but she did raise their four children,

Richard, Jerry, Janet and Jean.

 

Home Sweet Home:

 

Stan and Lillian moved into a four bedroom, four bath one-story

brick house in St. Louis County in 1967. It was the house Stan died in this past Saturday.

 

That’s where I met the Musial family last spring before heading to the ballpark. When I stepped into the front room of Stan Musial’s home, I

felt an urge to play a giant game of checkers on the black and white

square-tiled flooring surrounding me. The spirt within the home was

one of warmth and charm, much like Stan himself.

 

Walk a little further inside and you couldn’t help but notice the sea of

pictures framed across the wall the length of a two car garage.

 

It was as if I had gone through a time machine or touched a crystal

ball, giving an instant tour through the incredible life of Stan the

Man.

 

I had the privilege to lay eyes on walls that were a history buff’s

dream. Good luck finding a spot on the red and white wallpaper for

another frame. The white crown molding seemed to coincidentally frame

the photos as one big collage. There were pictures of Stan and the

Emperor of Japan, the president of Poland and even the Pope. The saying,

“a picture is worth a thousand words” could not be more true. The wall of

Stan Musial’s home told a story words never could.

 

Stan had met with every president since Eisenhower and had photos

to prove it.

 

His most recent visit was last year, Feb. 14, 2011 when Stan was awarded

the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the highest award a civilian can receive. The trip was one of thirteen Stan made to the White House during his life.

 

“I get to go where most people don’t because of grandpa, like ride

inside the president’s personal elevator,” Brian said. “Just to sit

there, and get to go and be led by the secret service was something

most people don’t get to do.”

 

While at the White House, Stan and Brian had dinner with Warren

Buffet while being serenaded by Yo Yo Ma.

 

“I first met President Obama at the 2009 All-Star game so the trip to

the White House was the second time I’d met the active president,”

Brian said. “How many people are able to do that?”

 

Bill Clinton grew up in Arkansas listening to the St. Louis Cardinals on the radio. When Stan won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Clinton wrote him a personal letter, congratulating him on his award, commending his character and telling him of the fond memories he has of listening to him play.

 

Statues, Bridges and Ballparks:

 

Stan also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Poland, his parent’s homeland, where he has a a stadium named after him.

The Stan Musial Stadium, is located at the Little League Baseball

European Leadership Training Center in Kutno, Poland.

 

Stadiums are just the beginning.

 

“Grandpa always jokes that he has more statues than Lincoln,” Brian said.

 

Two Stan Musial statues stand proudly outside of Busch Memorial

Stadium in St. Louis. One of the bronze statues was presented on

August 4, 1968. It sits outside the third base gate, and stands more than twenty feet tall. Other statues of Stan can be found across the St. Louis area, including one at all three Lester’s restaurants locations.

 

Stan is also enshrined in the Missouri Capital rotunda with a bust in the Hall of Famous Missourians in Jefferson City.

 

Stan also is featured in a statue entitled “The Man and the Boy,” in the

Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mo. Another statue can

be found in Cooperstown, N.Y. at the National Baseball Hall of

Fame.

 

The tributes do not stop at statues and busts, however. This past May,

Stan’s hometown of Denora, Pa. presented the legend with a bridge.

 

That’s right, “Stan the Man” can now claim an entire bridge.

 

“Who can say something like that?” behind the scenes photographer,

Ali Rafiq said. “If someone says they have a statue, Stan can say, ‘O

yah? Well, I have a bridge–beat that.’”

 

Building Bridges in More than One Way:

 

Perhaps the bridge is symbolic of the ties Stan brought between

countries, races and every day Americans.

 

“He actually helped bring baseball to japan,” Brian said. “In the

40s, players from America would fly over to Japan and play baseball

for the people. Grandpa was one of them.”

 

Stan was also a key part of the integration of baseball in the 1950s

when Willie Mays started to play.

 

“All the African-American’s were playing cards and he came

over, sat down and started to play with them,” Brian said. “He has

always looked at everyone the same in his life.”

 

Stan never seemed to care if a person from Japan, Poland, America or

whether you were black, white or purple. He never saw color.

 

He didn’t care if a person was rich or poor, celebrity or average joe.

 

“He would go to the hospital by himself [no cameras or media

attention] just to warm people up and he always thought he was the

lucky one,” Brian said. “He will still say that today.”

 

Stan has never looked at celebrities like celebrities, neither does

he view himself as one. Thy are just people in his eyes.

 

“Funny story,” Brian said. “One day grandpa came home with a bottle

of champagne. When asked who it was from, he replied by saying, ‘Some

Italian singer gave it to me.”

 

“‘ ‘Frank Sinatra?’ Stan’s secretary, Pat Anthony said. ‘Yeah, that’s the

guy,’ Stan said.”

 

No Rain on My Parade:

 

Although the rain delay dampened the mood of Cardinals fans, sitting

inside the Cardinal manager’s Mike Matheny’s office, I was convinced

that nothing could rain on my parade.

 

The two hour delay was over, which also meant my story time was over.

The legend came home once again to be with his Birds and I got to

hear him roost.

 

Matheny walked into his office sporting the St. Louis Cardinals

authentic 2012 commemorative gold lettered jersey with its 2011 World Series

Champions patch.

 

Stan looked up at Matheny as he sat on what used to be Tony La

Russa’s couch.

 

“Where’s Tony?” Stan, who was battling Alzheimer’s, said.

“I’m Mike Matheny, the new manager.” Matheny said.

 

“Oh, Congratulations!” Stan said wide eyed as he reached out to shake

Matheny’s hand.

 

One by one, Hall of Famers, players and management walked past the

open door, only to turn around and walk back. Everyone jumped at the

honor of shaking The Man’s hand.

 

“Is this your 70th or 71st home opener, Stan?” Hall of Famer, Lou

Brock, said with a smirk.

 

Only minutes passed before Mike Shannon radio broadcaster for the St.

Louis Cardinals, entered the office asking Stan to sign three pictures

of Stan, himself, and 10-time All-star, Red Schoendienst.

 

These days, showing off his signature is what Stan does best.

Stan signed the pictures with ease and his signature was near perfect.

 

“Back in the day, being left handed was looked at as a bad thing,”

Brian said. “Grandpa said they would whack him in class to put his pen

in his right hand instead of his left.”

 

After Stan signed the pictures, Brian disappeared with nothing in

hand and returned with a box full of baseballs.

 

It became routine for Stan to sign a dozen balls in the manager’s

office during every game he attended.

 

“Tony must have 500 baseballs signed by Stan,” Brian said with laughter.

 

The tradition lived on as Stan signed the dozen balls and handed them

to Matheny. The skipper was beaming as he said he would cherish them.

 

Signing his last ball, Stan looks at me with a grin and said.

 

“Give the girl a ball.”

 

It’s not everyday you sit on a couch next to a baseball legend, but

on that day, I did.

 

The ball stayed with me, closely by my side in the zipper pocket of

my carry-on bag all the way back to Oklahoma.