But the other day, I picked up a book at our Troy, IL library on Stan Musial, a Cardinal baseball player from 1941 to 1963 and then heavily connected to the club and St. Louis until his death in 2013.
I have to admit, reading through some of the stories of close games and lots of record breaking moments had me hooked. The book was called Stan the Man Musial: Born To Be A Ball Player by Jerry Lansche.
Stan The Man, a baseball hall of famer since 1969, still holds numerous records for the Cardinals and in the game itself. For example, he wore No. 6 and that was the first number the Cardinals franchise “retired.” A quick search will show Musial’s standing records and outstanding career.
Based on the writer of this book, I discovered a few other great things about Stan Musial that have inspired me. Here they are in no particular order:
From the time Stan was a little boy, hitting with a broomstick, he loved baseball and had a dream of playing in the majors. Someone in the book said of Mr. Musial: “He has an uncluttered mind, a single focus on baseball.” Focus in life will make a difference in how you succeed. An uncluttered mind should really be a goal for anyone seeking to make a difference in life. Hebrews 12 speaks of this when the writer encourages us to “throw off everything that entangles us and move toward the prize.” Stan’s singular focus helped him not only stay in the game for the long haul, it allowed him to rack up several records that could only come with time on the field and a focus on the game.
At his retirement party, Stan’s wife made some remarks. “She cried at his retirement party and all she could say was, ‘It’s been fun.'” That phrase stuck with me. Some how, even with a super star life, raising a family, and keeping schedules and details straight, she was able to think of their lives to that point as fun. Stan modeled a life of faithfulness to his wife (although the book didn’t explicitly say this, they remained married all those years). They met in high school and his wife passed away in 2012 and he died a year later. Though minor league (and major league) play is tough on families with all time spent on the road, Lil was noted to be easy going, kept good care of the kids and supported her husband from the background. In the professional sports world, many heroes wind up being successful on the field and unsuccessful at home. Stan seemingly kept commitment high in his marriage and at home.
Character And Listening
At one point, just as Stan was becoming well known, he signed a contract to appear in a cigarette ad. Though attitudes in American culture toward cigarettes were different, one of Stan’s teammates confronted him about it. He said that young kids were looking up to him and that he couldn’t in good conscious do this. Stan reflected on what his teammate told him and he stopped after his contract was through, never to do it again. He later reflected that when you are in this world of fame, there are lots of people telling you things, but you listen to your family and your teammates. That willingness to quit the practice of advertising for cigarettes and forgoing the financial gain for the sake of his influence over the lives of children was a good indication of solid character.
The only two times Stan came close to some issues in baseball were during contract negotiations. At one point, early in his career, Stan held out for more. The Cards didn’t take the bait. Stan was quietly worried, but so was the Cardinals owner at the time. In fact, the owner sent a representative to Pennsylvania to speak personally with Musial and to offer to meet in the middle. Stan was delighted to do so. This minor scuffle around contract and salary early in his career, kept Stan focused more on baseball than money. Later on in his career, after he had racked up so many records and such a great batting average, the club was willing to do whatever they needed to keep him. At one point, the Cardinals managers wanted to make him the highest paid in baseball. At that time, the highest paid was $90,000, so they were going to give him $91,000. But August Busch stepped into the conversation and told them to just take the contract up to $100,000. Stan was the first professional sports player to earn six figures.
This story reminded me of the importance of doing your best. What follows is that other people will take notice. If Stan had asked for that amount, he may not have gotten it.
Another speaker was quoted during Stan’s retirement: “What I’m still trying to figure out is why we are a celebrating a guy who struck out 7000 times.” In every aspect of life, the chances of failing are pretty good. It’s especially true of baseball. The key is to keep moving forward. When we miss, we try again. Stan stuck with it, keep hitting, became known for it and the game was forever changed. No matter what you’ve tried to do and have failed at, don’t let it hold you back. Keep moving forward.
Maybe this doesn’t make big news these days, but Stan didn’t have any major scandals attached to his career in baseball. Many other guys who became household names had the home run record, but… had the base stealing record, but… and on and on. Several players had issues with addictions, with gambling, and marital crisis. But, at least based on this one book, it seemed like Stan Musial escaped major scandals, he loved the game and he loyally supported his leaders and his teammates.
This is probably why he is so loved by baseball fans and why he became a St. Louis icon.