Last night I was wrapping up dinner with the kiddos and Sarah came into the kitchen to inform us that Stan Musial had died. The wonderful daughter was sad for a bit. She knew that Stan was a great Cardinal. The delightful son was sad since anyone dying is a sad event.
Of course, the kiddos got over it quickly as dinner was cleared and they went on to wrestle each other in the living room. My sadness lingered throughout the evening as I surfed the web looking at articles and tributes to The Man.
As I walked to church this morning, I noticed the title of the sermon for today was “Living with Dying.” And of course, the first thing Pastor talked about this morning was the death of Stan, and how even in death Stan provided an example for others to follow, dying at home surrounded by family and friends. He even talked about how Stan Musial had affected his life, learning how to hit as an eight year old from a album entitled Stan the Man’s Hit Record.
After church, I talked with a friend of mine about how we reacted to the news last night.
All this for a man none of us had ever met.
I find it telling that so many are mourning a man who many today never saw play, and most never met. It’s a testament to a life well lived. As you search the web and look at all the tributes to Stan, the thing that is most telling today is that the focus of many articles is not his playing career, but his graciousness and decency. In today’s world, graciousness and decency is seemingly so uncommon that it is deemed newsworthy.
Graciousness and decency are certainly in short supply today. What a contrast Stan Musial’s life provides during a week that saw Lance Armstrong DECIDE that he would publicly confess his years of deception and wrongful lawsuits in a self-serving spectacle hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Essentlially entertainment, funded by ad revenue, Lance flippantly acknowledged he lied and ruined people’s lives in a selfish attempt to keep himself publicly relevant.
Manti Te’o’s touching story of overcoming hardship was exposed as a fraud this week as well. Here’s what I found disturbing about his story. The knot of lies surrounding this story is so large, I doubt it will ever be untangled. I find it interesting that his university knew about this for about three weeks, hushed it up, and now this young man is letting a Christian institution of higher learning lie for him as well. He too decided make his contrition public, in an attempt to maintain his status as a first round pick in the NFL draft.
These guys have been in the public sphere for a short time, and will live the rest of their lives under a cloud of scandal.
Stan Musial lived life in the public eye for 72 years and to my knowledge never had a TV special where he had to explain or justify his actions. He led a life that is worthy of emulation, and upon his death, celebration.
With that said, here’s six thoughts on what made Stan “The Man”.
1. He loved his woman well. Stan and Lillian were married for 71 years. 71 YEARS! The lovely wife and I have been married for 12, and in today’s modern world that is fairly impressive. Lillian was his first and only love. They got married out of high school and from all accounts, they had a strong and loving marriage. Sadly, Lil (as she was known) passed away last May. At the time, I commented to my lovely wife, that Stan would not live another year. For providing an example of a strong marriage, Stan was the man.
2. Stan was kind. The stories of his kindness are numerous, but one I always enjoyed this one. He bought a house for one of his old minor league coaches who had fallen on hard times later in his life. The coach had housed Stan and Lil during his time in the minor leagues, and Stan repaid the favor later. For his kindness, Stan was the man.
3. Stan was a hard worker. He continued working in his office into his late eighties, signing autographs and fulfilling other’s requests. During his early years as a ballplayer, he spent his off-seasons working in a factory. Finally, to be that successful at the major league level required a large amount of work to keep yourself in peak shape for 22 years. For his work ethic, Stan was the man.
4. Stan cared about kids. He never smoked in public because he was afraid of the example it would set for kids. He signed countless autographs through the years and one of the main charities he supported was Covenant House, an organization that provides services for homeless and at-risk youth. For his concern for kids, Stan was the man.
5. Stan believed in fair play. He took a huge pay cut when he felt he didn’t live up to his contract late in his career. He never got ejected from a game. A national sportsmanship award is named in his honor. For his demeanor on the playing field, Stan was the man.
6. Stan was loyal. Loyal to his wife, to his friends, to his team, to his city. For his loyalty, Stan was the man.
All in all, The Man was a difficult nickname to live up to. But, Stan deserved the nickname and all it stood for. Thanks Stan for providing us with an example of a full life well lived.
So, with the remainder of this year, I’m going to try to emulate Stan as best I can. I’m going to love my wife, be kind, work hard, care for my students, treat others fairly, and exhibit loyalty to those around me.
I doubt I’ll do it all the time, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Have a great day everyone.