— In 1987, I stood next to Stan Musial for 15 minutes and never once asked him for an autograph.
This happened despite the fact that there were big baskets overflowing with baseballs practically begging to be taken and signed by folks such as Musial. Of course, Stan was not the only guy I neglected to ask for an autograph; I also neglected to ask Willie Mays for his autograph.
See, when I do something stupid, I don’t do it halfway. The way I figure it, if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.
At the time, I was working for a TV station and covering an event that brought baseball legends to Busch Stadium. I figured it would be unethical for a member of the media to ask for an autograph at an event where he was working.
I know what you’re thinking: “What a moron!”
One of the reasons you are right is because all around me, other members of the media were getting autographs from Stan. Of course, even if I decided to break my ethical code, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get an autograph from Stan. You see, normally to get an autograph from someone, you have to ask for it, and I’m not sure I would have been able to talk to Stan. I’m pretty sure, had I tried, the conversation would have gone something like this:
Stan: “What is it, son?”
Me: “Black boos.”
Me: “Me big fffffaaaaannn. Wwwwould yyyyooooouuuu gish boshhhh.”
Stan: “What? You say Timmy is stuck in the well? Is that it?”
The day wasn’t a total loss. The event I was covering was an old-timers game between the 1967 St. Louis Cardinals and a team made up of baseball legends such as Willie. The game was played before an actual Cardinals game. With me at the event were my Uncle Jim and a friend named Roger. After the games, as we were leaving the stadium, Roger stopped and had a woman who was working at one of the concession stands sign Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda’s name on a baseball he had picked up earlier.
Roger kept that ball on his desk, and for years people would pick it up and say things like, “Wow! You have an Orlando Cepeda autograph!” Roger would say, “Yep, and he was really a nice guy.”
That’s my only Stan Musial story. I wish I could say that I saw him play in person, but I didn’t. Well, actually I probably did. When I was 5 years old, my dad took my older brother, older sister and me to a Cardinals game at the old Sportsman’s Park. But I don’t remember seeing Stan play, and if I don’t remember, I really can’t say that I saw him play in person.
As you probably know, Stan passed away Saturday. He was 92 years old. Stan had been in ill health for some time, but still his death touched millions of people in a special way. Stan’s death doesn’t just represent the passing of one of the greatest baseball players of all time and, by all accounts, one of the greatest humans of all time. No, his death represents the passing of an era — an era when things were somehow more innocent, more pure. They probably weren’t, but for several generations of folks today, it seems that way.
I never officially met Stan, so I can’t say that I will miss him.
But I can say that I miss the idea of Stan. And I do.
Mike Pound is a columnist for The Joplin (Mo.) Globe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.