John Hall is Columbia resident and a frequent contributor to the Missourian's From Readers section. He also writes a regular email newsletter, the KOM League Flash Report, to former players and fans of the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League, a minor league baseball league from the '40s and '50s.
Hall asked his readers, which include his own friends and family as well as former minor league players spread all across the country, to share their thoughts and memories of recently deceased Cardinals legend Stan Musial. These are some of their responses and Hall's comments.
Click here to see more of Hall's readers' memories of Musial.
Stan Musial may well have been the most popular and universally respected man to ever have played the game of baseball. If he wasn’t then someone forgot to tell those who contributed to this report with their memories that spanned the 1940s-50s and the first three years of the '60s.
Former friends of Stan and Lillian remember:
John, you, as well as the Musial Family, have been in my thoughts last night and today. Even though we all knew this day would come, it still brings the feelings of sadness that you feel when losing a close member of the family. In a sense, he was a family member--our baseball family! Both Stan and Lil were always so nice to Bill and me--we always knew them as genuine friends who always were gracious to us. We were privileged to have been a part of the Cardinals so many years ago and to have known both Stan and Lil. Blessings to all and may your memories bring you comfort at this time and always.
—Bill and Shirley Virdon, Springfield, Mo. We are on our way to Florida for Fantasy Camp and then Spring Training!
Comment: Bill Virdon started out in the KOM league with the Independence Yankees and five years later the Yankees traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals for Enos Slaughter. Bill was the National league Rookie of the Year in 1955 and was later traded to the Pirates where he played on a World Championship team in 1960. He had a long career as player, manager, coach and this year headed to spring training for the 64th time. He has served with the Cardinals, Yankees, Pirates, Astros and Montreal Expos in that time.
Savannah gentleman recalls his youthful admiration:
John, I believe I know how you feel tonight as I feel the same from the loss of our hero Stan Musial. It is hard for me to describe these feelings but I now realize he was such an important part of my formative years. I believe I am a better person because of him, the Cardinals and baseball. My relationship with him in spring training during the 1953 season was a highlight in my life and an inspiration to me. I wish everyone had the opportunity I had to meet this marvelous human being. I know that your heart is broken--so is mine
God bless you and your family.
—Bob Zuccarini, Savannah, Georgia
Comment: This gentleman was born in the small north central Missouri town of Bevier. He grew up idolizing Musial by virtue of St. Louis Cardinal broadcasts into his area and infrequent trips to St. Louis to see them play. As fate would have it he was signed by St. Louis but it was the hapless Browns, not his favored Cardinals. He was sent to Pittsburg, Kansas in 1951 where I saw him with the local Browns team for about one series and then it was back to Bevier, he hadn’t panned out. The Cardinals knew something the Browns didn’t and within two years he hit .350 in the Georgia State league. He spent a total of seven years at the minor league level and his greatest influence was Musial.
This Editor’s grandson was treated with respect:
John, I have always enjoyed the great respect and admiration you have for Stan Musial. This current generation of sports fans have no idea of what a real idol should be. You were fortunate to have a person that you could truly idolize in all aspects of his life. I saw that someone wrote of Stan Musial, "I never heard anyone say one bad thing about him." How many other people do you think can have the same thing said about them? The only time I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Musial was back in 1988 or 1989 at a baseball card show in St. Louis. I had Tony who was about 2 with me and I brought his ceramic baseball bank to have autographed by Stan Musial. When it came our turn to hand him the bank to sign he shook it and said "You can't have a bank without any money in it." So he reached in his pocket and dropped a quarter in it. That quarter is still in the bank along with the great memory he gave us. Stan Musial: The Greatest Cardinal of All Time. A title he will share with no one.
—Bucky Pescaglia, Columbia, Mo.
Comment: A short time later my son-in-law mustered this confession. “Oh and my baseball hero was Pete Rose. I think you did a better job of picking.”
Former big leaguer on two continents responded:
Very nice article, John. I know that you are close to the Musial family, so did you know he was in Hospice. I’m sure you are having a sad moment. “Even this will pass”--not said as a light gesture.
Comment: jds is Joe D. Stanka who played with the Ponca City Dodgers before making it to the Chicago White Sox in the American league and the Nankai Hawks in Japan.
Along Route 66, in Southwest Missouri, was another Cardinal family and a “Stan The Man” unmarked grave:
I also listened to hundreds of games on radio, which Stan the Man played in. I had the privilege of watching him play in a few games in St. Louis. Fortunately, my father was as big a Cardinal fan as I was, so when he could break away from the farm for a couple of days we would make the journey from Carthage to St. Louis along Route 66. I have told you before that I named my first dog after Musial. In elementary school, I had to write a paper about my hero, and I chose Stan. My sister and I played softball in our front yard. We always used professional players in our lineups, and Stan was always in mine, even though my sister wanted him as well. I refused to give in. After all, he was my hero. She claims Stan, my dog, was also her dog, but I'm the one who took care of him. Stan the Man will be missed by all. His contributions to baseball will never be forgotten.
Comment: After leaving Carthage High School Homer Hall, no kin to this writer, was never heard from until these reports commenced. Here is what he shared about his life ... "I'm in Tennessee. I have a B.S. from MU and an M.S. from KU. I'm now an adjunct instructor for Kent State University..."
Those who wanted to share their thoughts about Musial have had the opportunity as far as this forum is concerned. Never have I related a recurring dream I had for many years after Musial retired. Each time, in my dream, I so wanted him to hit one more home run. Most dreams are supposed to end like fairy tales and all your wishes come true. But, in my dreams he was never able to hit that last homer. But, as I think of it now, between 1964 and 2013 he clobbered many over the pavilion in right field at Sportsman’s Park and on to Grand Avenue. His exploits after baseball probably won him more fans than he had during his playing days. Bye, Sir.
Supervising Editor is Joy Mayer.