When the world gets a little too crazy for me to handle, I don't watch the news or go online for as many days as it takes for me to calm down and feel at peace.
I'm at that point as a sportscaster/columnist. I'm worn out and need a break from Lance Armstrong, Manti Te'o and football for a moment. Sometimes instead of not watching the news what I try to do is read or write about a team or athlete from a different day and simpler time.
All this week I've been reading everything about such a man — Stan Musial, who died last weekend after a glorious life at the age of 92.
My biggest thrill at the Baseball Hall of Fame weekend was always the half-hour or so it took to introduce the Hall of Famers who made the trip to Cooperstown that particular year. It was a walking, talking journey through the history of the game.
One year in the early 90s — I think it was 1992 — they introduced the Hall of Famers, saving the so-called "best for last," at which point they introduced, back-to-back-to-back, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio to the crowd. It was a goose-bump, hair-stand-up-on-your-body moment. Baseball royalty before your very eyes.
About a minute later it hit me. How could Stan Musial be on stage — and Hank Aaron, too — and not be part of that moment?
Even at the Hall of Fame, quiet, classy Stan Musial took a back seat when he WAS baseball royalty.
It was undoubtedly because he played in St. Louis, i.e., not New York. For most of Musial's career (1941-63), St. Louis was the westernmost city in the game. His numbers tell quite a story — fourth all-time in hits (behind Rose, Cobb and Aaron), sixth in RBIs, and still second in total bases. Growing up, I remembered two remarkable stats about Musial. He played 22 seasons, yet was in 24 all-star games (they played two per year for a short time) and of his 3,630 hits — 1,815 were at home and 1,815 on the road.
He won seven batting titles and three MVPs. Yet ESPN did not name him one of the 50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century, and the only reason he was a part of baseball's "All-Century" team, was because after he was left off it, a committee was formed to put him on it.
Nowadays if the opposing team gives you a nickname, it's not one that can be repeated. In the late 40s and early 50s, Musial blasted Brooklyn Dodgers pitching so frequently that the Brooklyn fans nicknamed him "The Man."
Stan "The Man" Musial was a young ballplayer when Jackie Robinson made his debut. Many on his team wanted nothing to do with a "colored" player. Musial embraced everyone. As Mays said a few days ago, "He got the race thing."
He also interrupted his career for a year to serve in World War II, and was known at many public gatherings to break out and play a mean harmonica.
Musial was so beloved he has not one, but two statues of him in St. Louis. They named a stadium after him in Poland, and a little over two years ago President Obama awarded the icon the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Musial grew up 30 miles from Pittsburgh where he met his wife when he was 14 and married her at 19. Lil and Stan were married 73 years; she died last May. Stan died peacefully with the whole family at his side last Saturday. A buddy of mine is an anchor/reporter in St. Louis and texted me, "We are Vatican City and the Pope has passed."
Considering he retired when John F. Kennedy was President, Stan Musial may not mean much to many of you. Heck, he retired before I was born. But this is one of those hectic and tabloid times when I just needed to go back to a certain day and place, and an athlete about which no one had a bad word to say.
God bless Stan Musial, whose career and life make him more "The Man" today than ever.
Now we return to regularly scheduled programming already in progress ...
David Moulton co-hosts "Miller and Moulton in the Afternoon" weekdays 2 to 6 p.m. on Southwest Florida's ESPN Radio (101.5 FM in Bonita/North Naples, 105.1 FM in Naples/Marco Island). His freelance column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.