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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Farewell to the Man and to the Earl of Baltimore

There are big doings on the gridiron come tomorrow, but they shouldn't stop us from noting the passing of two of the legends of the baseball diamond today. Slugger Stan Musial and manager Earl Weaver, both of whom represented eastern teams with birds on their uniforms, left the planet within hours of each other. They both achieved true greatness in their sport, each in his own way, and their fans loved them for it. The sports world is a little darker without them.

Comments (8)

Stan The Man was more than a great slugger, he was one of the greatest all-around hitters ever. Never refused an autograph to a kid, either. Halcyon days gone by.

Thanks for taking a moment to pay tribute here, Jack, to Stan Musial, and to the irrepressible great manager, Earl Weaver. I loved how Earl would spin his cap around to get really nose-to-nose while furiously arguing with an ump. He took that expansion Baltimore team to the highest heights and stayed there for over a decade. One of the best ever.

Baseball's 'Perfect Warrior, Perfect Knight' Stan Musial Dies at 92

Notable excerpt:

...Musial held the National League record for hits at 3,630 before Pete Rose broke it in 1981.

A .331 lifetime batter, Musial hit .300 or better 16 straight seasons, beginning in 1942. He played on three world championship teams, in 1942, 1944 and 1946, and played in 24 All-Star Games, tying a record. He won three National League Most Valuable Player awards.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of his playing career happened on May 13, 1958, when he pinch-hit a double in Chicago for the 3,000th hit of his career. Musial then was honored in impromptu fashion at several whistle stops along the way as the Cardinals’ train made its way home from Chicago after the game.

I saw Joe DiMaggio with my own eyes at Yankee Stadium, and I saw Willie Mays strike out one time, but I can't imagine being on the same planet as Stan Musial. Maybe it was the storybook nature of his name or the class factor but he didn't seem to be attached to these times in any way, and he certainly didn't play the same game as A-Rod, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds. It's like a couple of years ago when Harmon Killebrew passed. He was the name on my bat in Little League in Arabia. I couldn't believe he was still alive until 2011.

I also waited on Earl Weaver once at a hotel in downtown Portland. We had several big-time baseball legends come through where I worked including Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle who were both, unfortunately, on a drunken bender.

I looked at Earl in the darkness during the AV presentation and I saw a man who had rolled the dice of a million baseball decisions. Who had lived and died a thousand times grinding out some hot streak with the Baltimore Orioles. Old baseball managers get addicted to it like gamblers. He seemed like an old card player to me. A real character though. RIP to both of them.

Another notable excerpt from that St. Louis Dispatch obit:

Fellow Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst was a teammate of Musial with the Cardinals in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The two roomed together for more than 10 years.

“A lot of times we would go visit kids in hospitals whenever we were on the road,” Schoendienst once said. “He didn’t want publicity for it, and he didn’t do it to seek recognition or humanitarian awards. He just did it because he thought it was the right thing to do. He enjoyed making other people happy and maybe give them a small ray of sunshine to brighten up their lives.”

When I was a kid my dad brought home a copy of Stan Musial's instructional batting record.  I played that 33 rpm disc again and again on the HiFi.  I listened.  But try as I might, I still could't hit a curveball (or a fastball or changeup for that matter).    Musial was an elegant player with a beautiful swing; when ball hit bat it made an especially sharp crack.  He was a true gentleman.  He will be missed.

When I moved to the DC area I had the pleasure of attending quite a few Oriole games at old Memorial Stadium.  Weaver's Orioles were exciting to watch and a riot to read about.  Players like Rick Dempsey, Lenny Sakata or Gary Roenicke, ordinary in any other setting, would make extraordinary plays on Weaver's behalf.   Weaver and Jim Palmer would backstab, nitpick and demean each other off the field and kick their opponents' butts on it.  It was "O""R""I""O""L""E""S" and "Orioles Magic".  Wild Bill Hagy led the cheers.

I remember once my Dad drove out from Chicago to watch the White Sox play the Orioles in the playoffs.   After the Orioles beat the Sox we were walking through the parking lot out of Memorial Stadium, when my Dad spied Tip O'Neill, standing next to his government issue Lincoln Continental with two other men (who it turns out were White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Eichorn).   My dad scoots straight over to Tip, shakes his hand and introduces himself.  O'Neill turns to the other men, says something, and my Dad shakes their hands.  I asked as we were walking away, "Hey Dad what did O'Neill say?"  My dad responds, Tip said "Jerry and Ed, I'd like you to meet George Foster, a great friend of many years."  Earl Weaver, Tip O'Neill, they don't make 'em like that anymore. 

Newleaf - ot somewhat, but I went to Gonzaga same time as Lenn Sakata. Most amazing player, but never hit well in the majors. Loved sitting on the bluff above Pecarovich field, as I think it was called back then, when the Zags were a baseball school. Thanks for reminding me of those memories.

Great stuff, guys. Thanks for sharing!

"...both of whom represented eastern teams"

Well, as a Rahway/Woodbridge native I always saw St Louis as too far west to be eastern.

Weaver was a good manager, and a real sweetheart. He had a special way of dialoguing with umpires.

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