My Dinner for Stan
I’m going to be honest. I’ve spent the past 3 days thinking of almost nothing but the fact that I wanted to get my hands on my laptop’s keyboard and write an immortal piece about an immortal human. The thing is, I couldn’t bring myself to begin because I knew that not only would typing the words confirm that “The Man” is gone, but that I could never do him justice.
As C70 put in their recent post, appropriately titled “Baseball’s Perfect Knight:”
There’s poetry to be written. There are moving words to be spoken. What do I write?
So instead of attempting to create something worthy of blogging lore, I feel like all I can do is just take you through my experience the night that Stan Musial left us. After all, in some strange way, I feel like this is how he would want to be remembered: simply and with love.
This past Saturday was the 10 month anniversary of my boyfriend and I’s relationship. And while we don’t usually celebrate every single month, the number 10 called for dinner and a movie. We settled into the quaint Italian restaurant to which we’d been once before, and not 5 minutes passed when my boyfriend checked his phone. His face went blank and he asked me, “If I show you this, do you promise not to get upset.”
“I can’t promise I won’t get upset, but I want to see,” I protested, thinking that he was about to show me some unfavorable trade news. We are both huge baseball fans, you see. As I reached for the phone, I was right about two things: the information I was about to consume was baseball related and I indeed would not like it.
But of course, my hand immediately was drawn to my mouth and I specifically remember my attempt to process, half of my brain wondering what the other half was going to do. How was I going to take this news? And did I really have a say in that?
The decision was made unconsciously as the tears began to come. I was speechless. And Stan “The Man” Musial was dead. On any normal occasion, I don’t think I could say that a 92-year-old man dying would come as a shock. But this was no ordinary man. This was the heart, soul, and body of the Cardinals’ franchise. This was indeed, as has been said so many times before, “baseball’s perfect knight.”
I think it did come as a shock to all of us because for so many Cardinals fans, he had always been there. Our whole lives he had been an ambassador for the team and for the game, and we never felt more alive than when he was around. “The Man” was invincible in our eyes, so it was incredibly difficult to comprehend that he had fallen.
I spent the remainder of dinner choking back more tears to the dismay of several other restaurant patrons, and my boyfriend and I raised a glass to commemorate.
As I wished more than anything that I was in St. Louis with my fellow mourners, I couldn’t help but think about when our beloved Jack Buck died a little over 10 years prior. I was just 13 at the time, but one of my strongest memories that year consisted of going to Busch Stadium and watching the fans gather and pay tribute to the Cardinals’ voice.
I wondered how many would gather for Stan. How Stan’s immortal statue would be covered in Cardinal red. I settled for sharing the various posts that were dominating my Twitter feed and thinking of him throughout the entire meal.
The last time I saw Stan in person was before Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. The entire stadium had been abuzz with jitters. Such an exciting postseason and there was a chance it would all end in a loss that night. We were panicked, to say the least. But when the doors opened and Stan Musial began riding around the perimeter on that golf cart as had become customary, all Cardinals fans took a collective deep breath. It was as if time stopped and all that existed was this great man and the theme from The Natural. In that moment, Cardinal Nation knew it was going to be ok. Honestly, that was to me one of the most special moments in a night always remembered instead for David Freese’s heroics.
I’ll never get to meet Stan, but that doesn’t mean that his passing doesn’t feel like a member of my own family has left us. Because he was a member of my family – the Cardinals family. Stan was, and still is, the St. Louis Cardinals. And going even further, Stan IS the game of baseball. I don’t think you have to be a Cardinals fan to understand that.
That night, my boyfriend and I gasped at statistics, we read players’ condolences, and he squeezed my hand more times than I’d like to say. In the end I realized that this was my dinner for Stan. My tribute and the way I would grieve outside of my native city.
When we got home from the movie, I turned on the TV to see MLB Network’s memorial. My boyfriend looked to me and said with a half-smile, “Many, many years from now, you’ll grow old and die. And Stan will be waiting at the gates in his Cardinal uniform. And you can play catch together…But you’re going to have to get better at it first.”
While my coordination may cause some embarrassment, it would be the highest honor.
I know I’m not alone in the night I had last Saturday and this is the impact of Stan Musial. Thousands of people, like me, had a difficult time going on with their normal lives after hearing the news. And those who were able, stopped everything to “Meet at Musial” that night.
So with heavy hearts, we all wish him the best wherever he may be. If the world is at all a fair place, he’ll be rounding the bases in the ghost of Sportsman’s Park while his wife, Lillian, stands by.