John Hall frequently photographs his mid-Missouri surroundings, and he has been sharing his images with the Missourian for several years. Hall was also featured in 2012 in a Columbia Missourian article, in which he reminisced about his days as a bat boy in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri Baseball League.
The world knows by now that the greatest of them all has left the arena. Starting around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday Jan. 19, 2013, the telephone began to ring and the email became active with the news that Stanley Frank Musial was gone.
Anyone who ever knew me for five minutes, maybe five seconds, understood that Stan Musial was my hero. He was the first baseball player that I ever heard of, and in my sight he could do no wrong. I listened to hundreds of games broadcast by Harry Caray of Musial’s exploits and on three occasions was in his presence. They were spaced over the time span of when Musial was in his 30s, 70s and 80s. I found that at each juncture in his life he was still a gracious person deserving of hero status.
A number of years ago I wrote a tribute to Musial and figured someday, if he should leave the arena before I did, I would share those thoughts. Now, that the time has come and he has departed, those words don’t seem appropriate. So, I will keep an eye on the newspapers, television and Internet and see what others have to say. What I had prepared wouldn’t be that interesting to others.
What a least one person will have to say will appear at this site tomorrow. Mr. Vecsey contacted me a few years ago and told me he was working on a book about Musial and wondered if I had any thoughts. He was kind enough to listen to a story that unfolded in 1950 and he graciously put it in his best-seller “Stan Musial: An American Life.” When the complimentary signed book arrived from the author I was as proud as punch that my account of an experience with Musial was chapter six. And, of course, everyone knows the significance of chapter six. That was the same number Musial wore on the back of his St. Louis Cardinal jersey for 22 seasons. Mr. Vecsey was again thoughtful and made contact shortly after Musial’s passing.
Early in the morning hours of January 20 I shared a photo that was received by an east coast reader. The photo was sent to a number of people but quickly I found out that it didn’t transmit. When Mr. Vecsey didn’t get the transmission he made contact.
The following is what I shared with him:
"George, I'm sorry that photo didn't transmit. Anyway, it was of Baumholtz and Musial when they were vying for the batting title in 1952.
I knew that Stan wasn't well, as everyone else did, yet the loss is no less hard to accept. He was on my mind yesterday. My wife had been rearranging things throughout the house, and she left a space where she had a large picture of a bluebird family. I went into a storage room and saw the large poster Stan had sent me the same year he had been elected into the Hall of Famous Missourians. I had been allowed to attend his press conference prior to the induction and I brought up an event that happened in Springfield in a game against Carthage when he knocked himself out running into the right field wall. He was impressed that I knew about that and he worked it out with his son-in-law to make sure I had the poster of his career highlights. I came very close to putting that picture on the wall in mid-afternoon yesterday but didn't want to mess up my wife's decorating.
This morning I told her what I had almost done with the Musial photo yesterday, and her reply was "Well, why didn't you?" That was all I needed, so this morning I replaced the bluebird picture with that of the greatest redbird of them all. That Musial photo is apt to remain in that spot as long as I retain consciousness on this earth. As I related to a Musial family member earlier today, some people are born into this world and occupy space while others, like Stan, occupy a place in our hearts.
Each year, for the past decade, Musial's daughter, Janet, and I have shared birthday greetings for each other's parents. My mother and Stan shared the same birthday, though mother was six years his senior. I told Janet after mother's death in August that we only had one birthday to celebrate and that I hoped we could do so many more times. As it turned out, last November 21 was the final time to celebrate with one of those born on that date, and from that time forward we will use that day for remembering.
Thanks for allowing me to share a story with you in the last book ever written about a great man.