ST. LOUIS — On a brisk Friday evening, they stood and honored him again.
The No. 6 was cut into the center field grass. His name was printed on the baseballs and scrawled across the silver harmonicas that were given away at the Busch Stadium gates. There was an unveiling of a new plaque on his statue, that towering shrine made of granite and bronze.
It’s been this way since Stanley Frank Musial died at the age of 92. Times to remember him have come often. And remembering Musial is no small celebration, especially when everyone has a favorite story to tell.
For Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, it was at a wedding in 1991, the same year Matheny was drafted. He didn’t figure a man like Musial would give him the time of day. Yet, it was Musial who approached Matheny.
“Thirty minutes later, he was still treating me like I was special,” Matheny said.
This is just one of many. They come by word of mouth, or letter. Not just from St. Louis, but places like Germany and Japan.
“I see it on a daily basis,” Brian Schwarze, one of Musial’s 11 grandchildren, said. “All the stories, and everything that keeps on coming and coming and coming. You think it will stop. But it never does.”
How could it?
Musial is still here in so many ways. He’s on the back of the shirts of fans who fill the seats. He’s on the pennants that flap in the breeze at vendor stations just outside. He’s on the mind of these Cardinals, and their manager.
“Whenever there is a day that honors him,” Matheny said. “We are right on the top step, feeling the same thing.”
Friday was another one of those days. Harmonica music spilled into a flyover that honored Musial’s time in the Navy. His long list of baseball accomplishments was read.
-Three World Series wins as a player: 1942, 1944 and 1946
-Three-time National League MVP
-Twenty-four All-Star Games
-Lifetime batting average of .331
-NL leader in games played, runs, hits doubles and RBIs upon retirement
-Another World Series win as a general manager: 1967
Then, out by that massive statue, a red curtain was pulled back to reveal the plaque, which had a first paragraph that said:
For more than 70 years, Stan Musial was the heart and soul of the St. Louis Cardinals. As a player, he was the greatest Cardinal and one of the best players in Major League Baseball history. Off the field, he lived with a dignity and charm that endeared him to countless fans across several generations.
A handful of fans were still there when the first inning started. To read the plaque, they walked over bricks that had been engraved with fans’ messages to Musial.
“#6 = #1 CARDINAL” “A TRUE BASEBALL HERO” “THANKS FOR MANY MEMORIES STAN”
This is how St. Louis remembers its hero. And this city will continue to remember Musial, again and again and again.
“Stan Musial is embedded in St. Louis,” Matt Rosso, 31, said after he took a photo of Musial’s statue. “His legacy will live on forever.”
Even after the No. 6 fades from the grass and the silver harmonicas lose their shine. Even after the messages engraved into brick chip and grow smooth.