ST. LOUIS – Stan Musial was remembered during a funeral and memorial outside Busch Stadium Saturday as a Hall of Famer and a St. Louis icon embraced by generations of fans who never had the privilege of watching him play.
Broadcaster Bob Costas, his voice cracking with emotion at times, pointed out during a two-hour Mass that in 92 years of life, Stan the Man never let anyone down.
Costas noted that even though Musial, who died Jan. 19, was a three-time NL MVP and seven-time batting champion, the pride of Donora lacked a singular achievement. Joe DiMaggio had a 56-game hitting streak, Ted Williams was the last major leaguer to hit .400, and Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle soared to stardom in the New York spotlight. Musial didn’t quite reach the 500-homer club – he finished with 475 – and played in his final World Series in 1946, “wouldn’t you know it, the year before they started televising the Fall Classic!”
“What was the hook with Stan Musial other than the distinctive stance and the role of one of baseball’s best hitters?” Costas said. “It seems that all Stan had going for him was more than two decades of sustained excellence as a ballplayer and more than nine decades as a thoroughly decent human being.
“Where is the single person to truthfully say a bad word about him?”
There was enough room in the large Roman Catholic church for a handful of fans. One of them wore a vintage, No. 6 Musial jersey. Another clapped softly as pallbearers carried the casket from the church to the hearse to the tune of bagpipes.
Among those in attendance were baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, former St. Louis standout Albert Pujols and Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Whitey Herzog and 90-year-old Red Schoendienst, who once roomed with Musial. Joe Torre, a former MVP and manager in St. Louis, and Tony La Russa, who became close with Musial during his 16 seasons managing the Cardinals, sat near the front along with current manager Mike Matheny.
Pujols, who had been on track to challenge many of Musial’s franchise records before signing with the Angels 13 months ago, exchanged hugs with Fred Hanser, a member of the Cardinals ownership team, before taking his seat.
Jim Edmonds, a star center fielder for two World Series teams in the 2000s, has the same last name as one of Musial’s sons-in-law. He said Musial informed him that they were distant relatives, and greeted him as “Hey, Cuz!”
“I thought he was kidding at first,” Edmonds said. “That’s pretty cool.”
Jack Clark, a slugging first baseman for the Cardinals during the 1980s, said he perhaps respected Musial most for his decency during baseball’s sometimes difficult period of integration in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Stan kind of crossed that color barrier. When people were getting on the African-American players, he stuck up for them. It was a time when you could kind of get your finger pointed at you for that stuff,” Clark said. “People loved him, and he loved them right back.”
Bishop Richard Stika, pastor at Musial’s church in suburban St. Louis for several years, speculated during the homily about why Musial was never ejected from a game during his career: “I think deep down, that was because he didn’t want to go home and face Lil.”
Musial’s wife of nearly 72 years, Lillian, died last year.
Grandson Andrew Edmonds said the public Musial was no different from the private Musial, the grandpa who bought McDonalds for the family every Sunday. He recalled a fan telling him, “Your grandpa’s best attribute is he made nobodies feel like somebodies.”
Pallbearers included Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, Musial grandsons Andrew Edmonds and Brian Schwarze, and the retired star’s longtime business partner in Stan the Man Inc., Dick Zitzmann.
After the service, the hearse and vans filled with the Cardinals’ delegation drove to Busch Stadium, where Musial’s family laid flowers at the base of one of his statues – the one that made the move across the street from the old Busch – while being serenaded by “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Color guards from the city’s fire and police departments flanked the statue, along with more than a dozen ballpark ushers. A single Clydesdale walked slowly down the street.
Cardinals closer Jason Motte shook his head.
“This is nothing like I’ve ever seen,” he said.
During a funeral that was almost entirely upbeat, son-in-law Martin Schwarze got the biggest laugh when he recounted a 1995 radio interview with Jack Buck during which Musial was asked how good of a hitter he’d have been had he played in the modern era. Musial, who finished with a .331 career batting average, replied he probably would have batted about .275, and Buck said “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” that’s way too low.
Then Musial added with a chuckle, “Hey, Jack, I’m 75!”
Thousands filed through the Cathedral Basilica at Musial’s six-hour public visitation on Thursday, and hundreds more attended the service.
Hundreds more were waiting at the more prominent of the two Musial statues outside Busch Stadium, where fans have gathered since Musial died after several years of declining health. Next to the statues were flowers, balloons, teddy bears, helmets, autographed items and a homemade sign that read “Thanks for the memories. You live in our hearts, No. 6.”
“He’s been a hero to us for four generations,” Kathy Noorman of Wentzville, Mo., said, speaking near the statue. “He was such a good man, somebody you can hold up to grandkids and your own kids as an example of who they should be.”
Mark Springman, 57, of Alton, Ill., brought a bottle of champagne to the statue shrine. He saw Musial play in 1963, Stan the Man’s final season, and has been a season-ticket holder for about 15 years.
“He was more than a ballplayer,” Springman said. “He was the man.”