To this fan, Stan’s the man

Former teacher made the trip to see the Redbirds’ World Series teams in the 1940s.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:26 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Martha Spath’s favorite St. Louis Cardinals baseball player is Stan Musial.

Even as her memory fades, Spath, 85, remembers being a young teacher in Alton, Ill., and taking a passenger train with her brother south along the Mississippi River to Sportsman’s Park. Back then, Musial, a Hall of Fame legend of the 1940s and 1950s, led the Cardinals to three World Series titles from 1942 to 1946.

Spath can no longer make it to the games or name the players on this year’s league championship team. After suffering a bad fall two years ago, she moved into Candlelight Lodge, an assisted-living home in Columbia.

But none of that keeps her from rooting for the Cards.

“Sometimes we offer to bring tray service into her room because she’s so glued to the game,” said Janice Clark, director of the lodge. “She’s a diehard fan.”

Greg Hill, a State Farm insurance agent in Columbia, has been known to bring Spath snacks so she can feel like she’s at the game.

“She’s a huge sports fan in general,” Hill said. “Sometimes when I come to see her, she’s flipping the remote back and forth between the Tigers and Cardinals.”

For Spath, watching sports

provides a mental substitute for her lifelong passion: exercise. Talking to her for just a few minutes draws repeated references to her long career as a physical education teacher.

“In spirit, she takes every step with whoever’s playing,” said Karin Sneed, a nurse at the lodge. “She wrote a book a long time ago about children and exercise and was one of those people who helped set the standard for children exercising in school.”

A former teacher at Hickman High School and Truman State University, Spath’s most lasting relationships remain with former students and their children; Spath taught Hill’s mother at Hickman.

Over the years, she maintained her love of baseball by umpiring women’s softball games.

“Now when I watch the Cardinals, I think, ‘Oh, that was not a strike,’” Spath said.

Looking through her highlighted television guide, she hopes to follow her Cardinals all the way to a World Series victory.

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