Major League baseball is upon us and as usual, my mind drifts back to my growing up days in south Missouri and how, before television, we enjoyed listening to the St. Louis Cardinal games on the radio.
After KWPM went on the air in 1947, the games came in strong, except at night.
Then, we often drove toward the station in West Plains and listened on the car radio.
Our favorite player in those days was Stan Musial.
Called up to the majors late in the 1941 season, he played 22 years, all with the Cardinals.
Stan quickly became a star, helping St. Louis go to the World Series three years in a row, starting in 1943.
A gentleman on and off the field, Stan was a fan favorite both in St. Louis and in other cities, especially in Brooklyn where they called him "Stan the Man."
Now in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is among the all-time leaders in several categories.
He had three MVP awards, was a seven-time league batting champion, hit 475 career homers and has a .331 lifetime batting average.
His best year statistically was in 1948 when he hit .376 with 46 doubles, 18 triples and 39 home runs.
Stan played in 3,026 games and was never once thrown out of a game.
In 1952, he hit a grand slam home run against Brooklyn, only to have it nullified because one of the base umpires said he had called time out.
Amid the howling fans, the manager and several of the Cardinals were thrown out of the game for arguing, but not Stan.
He calmly retreated from the base path, went back to the plate and hit a three-run triple off the fence to win the game.
Preacher Roe, our local hero from Viola and West Plains who pitched in the major leagues, said Musial was the best hitter he ever faced. (Remember, Preacher pitched to DiMaggio, Mantle and many of the greats.) Preacher said Musial could hit him with the lights out and when asked how to get Musial out, Preacher once said, "I throw him four wide ones and then try to pick him off first."
Musial played hard, never refused to sign autographs and even though he dreaded to speak in public, rarely turned down an appearance invitation.
As far as I know, he hasn't had a movie or a best-selling book written about him, but he won't be left out of any "who's the greatest conversations" if I'm around.
To show you what kind of guy he was, toward the end of his career, when he felt his skills diminishing, he asked for a pay cut.
He is truly, Stan the Man.