Stan Musial retired a year or two before I fell in love with baseball.
But I know one thing — he’s one of the greatest players ever.
The St. Louis Cardinals have embarked on a campaign to get Musial the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the most prestigious award a civilian can receive in the United States.
It’s an honor that is well deserved.
The movement has picked up momentum since its launch on May 25.
“We have had over 14,000 people sign the petition, over 40,000 page views on the website (www.cardinals.com/stan) we have added over 1,300 followers on Twitter (#standforstan),” Cardinals’ Media & Public Relations assistant Terry Rodgers said in a Friday e-mail.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch cartoonist Dan Martin designed a “flat” Stan the Man, and the club has already posted dozens of pictures of fans, celebrities and Cardinals personalities with the cartoon.
“Flat Stan” also has a Facebook page, Rodgers said.
The team also is encouraging fans to create their own short “Flat Stan the Man” film.
Films are limited to two minutes in length and can range from parodies of movies, TV shows, plays, musicals, music videos to original productions that demonstrate the fans’ appreciation and affection for Musial.
KOM League historian John Hall, at the urging of Shirley Virdon (wife of KOM alum and former major leaguer Bill Virdon), has jumped on the bandwagon via his e-mail “KOM League Flash Report.”
“Within three minutes of sending, I heard from a former KOM and major leaguer along with one of the daughters of Stan Musial,” Hall said.
During his 22-year playing career — all with the Redbirds — Musial compiled a .331 lifetime batting average, with 3,630 hits, 475 home runs and 1,951 RBIs.
He’s one of only three players to amass over 6,000 total bases in his career — the other two are Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
Stan held 17 major league records, 29 National League records and nine All-Star Game records at the time of his retirement in 1963.
Musial’s most amazing stat? During his entire career that spanned well over 3,000 games, he was never ejected from a game.
“Throughout his life, Stan has never sought recognition for his good works,” Cardinals owner William O. DeWitt Jr. said in his letter to President Barack Obama. “His happiness comes from doing the right thing and bringing joy to others. While Stan does not know of our efforts to nominate him for this honor, we respectfully request your consideration as Stan has been a true role model — exemplifying the humility, grace and generosity we so desperately need to see in our American sports heroes.”
St. Louis players and coaches also chimed in: “For us, Stan embodies all that is good about the game of baseball and what it means to be a St. Louis Cardinal. Stan is a role model for players and fans alike, embodying the qualities of good sportsmanship, self-discipline, hard work, consistency, grace, humility and excellence.”
Established by John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to Americans who make “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States or to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” The award is “given only after careful thought, always sparingly so not to debase its currency.”
In 2009, President Obama presented the award to Pedro Jose Greer Jr., Stephen Hawking, Jack Kemp, Billie Jean King, Joseph Lowery, Joe Medicine Crow, Nancy Goodman Baker, Harvey Milk, Sandra Day O'Connor, Sidney Poitier, Chita Rivera, Mary Robinson, Janet Davidson Rowley, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Yunus and Edward Kennedy.
Seven professional baseball players and 11 sports figures have received the award.
Baseball players honored were Ted Williams (1991), Jackie Robinson (1984), Joe DiMaggio (1977), Buck O'Neil (2006), Hank Aaron (2005), Roberto Clemente (2003) and Frank Robinson (2005).
Also, Moe Berg — the catcher who was a World War II spy — has been honored.