House votes to name St. Louis bridge after Musial

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | 11:59 a.m. CDT; updated 12:10 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ST. LOUIS — Missouri and Illinois couldn't agree on what to name a new Mississippi River bridge at St. Louis, so Congress is settling the divide by affixing the name of late Cardinals baseball great Stan Musial to the region's first span across the Mississippi in more than four decades.

The U.S. House on Tuesday voted 395-2 to name the Interstate 70 span the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge — a compromise, given that Missouri lawmakers had sought to dub the crossing after that late baseball Hall of Famer while their Illinois counterparts had wanted to name it after military veterans.

Musial, who died in January at age 92, covers all those bases: the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient was a Navy veteran of World War II.

The congressional resolution, backed by several House members from both states, now heads back to the Senate, which in March unanimously passed a bill to name the span after Musial. The three-time MVP and seven-time batting champ spent his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals and help guide them to three World Series titles.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said she expects the measure to be on President Barack Obama's desk, perhaps within days.

"This effort has always been about honoring a St. Louis hero, and I'm thrilled we're on the cusp of doing just that," McCaskill said in a statement after Tuesday's House vote.

Long having bickered over how to fund the sorely needed bridge, lawmakers in Missouri and Illinois have parried in recent months over what to call the four-lane, cable-stayed bridge meant to relieve the 50-year-old Poplar Street Bridge, one of just two in the nation that accommodate three freeways.

The Illinois House voted 109-0 on a resolution that would call the span the Veterans Memorial Bridge, never mind that Missouri lawmakers and key members of Congress from both states insisted the bridge, scheduled to open next year, should bear the name of Stan "The Man" Musial —"the Stan Span," for short.

But a spokeswoman for Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, has said that whatever the states decide may be moot, insisting that Congress and the president hold naming rights because the $670-million project involves some $240 million of federal aid.

Tuesday's votes of approval came from House members from both states, including Republican Rodney Davis, Democrat Bill Enyart and Republican John Shimkus of Illinois and Republican Ann Wagner and Democrat William Lacy Clay of Missouri.

"Stan Musial was simply one of the greatest baseball players of all time," said Clay, of St. Louis. "In his own quiet way, Stan Musial was also on the vanguard of fighting discrimination and changing America. When some white players on the St. Louis Cardinals threatened to boycott the game if they were forced to play with blacks, Musial stood tall for justice and stopped the boycott before it started. When Stan died, stories from those difficult days were told with great reverence and respect."

Thirty-seven House members did not cast a vote on the matter Tuesday, while the only "no" votes came from Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

"Stan Musial was more than just one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He was an ambassador for the game of baseball, a veteran and a kind, upstanding person," Davis said. "Naming the bridge that links these two great states is another way we can honor both the brave men and women who have served this country and 'Stan the Man.'"

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