The formality of of laying Mr. Stanley Frank Musial to rest began yesterday. Fans, friends and family gathered at the Cathedral Basillica in St. Louis to pay their respects to “The Man.”
The first thing you notice as you walk into the Cathedral is it’s size — it is huge. Next, you notice the magnificent, ornate mosaics that decorate the arches, pillars and ceiling. Those who knew Stan, whether through articles or biographies, grainy black and white video clips or actual encounters in the St. Louis community know that, in spite of his gaudy numbers and large presence in St. Louis Cardinal baseball, Stan “The Man” Musial was not about ostentation.
Perhaps that is why it seemed appropriate the queue meandered past the beautiful artwork to the transept, a smaller alcove, where Stan lay at rest.
I drove down to the Cathedral, not sure of what to expect. The St. Louis news reports had warned of scant parking and long lines. Also, it was cold — temperatures in the low 20s, with a wind chill making it feel more like 10.
I was fortunate to find parking about a block away and the line was no longer out the door. I was able to wait inside, where it was warm. The crowd was the perfect cross-section of St. Louis and Cardinal Nation. There were older folks, teenagers and those in between. Men in business suits, women in skirts and dresses and, of course, many Musial jerseys and all types of Cardinals gear.
While the crowd looked to be much the same as you would see walking into Busch Stadium on any given game night, this was quite different. For the number of people present, the crowd was respectfully quiet. Sure, there were the murmurs of hushed conversations — usually sharing stories and/or memories of The Greatest Cardinal of All. What struck me most were the smiles. Yes, many smiles were through teary eyes but, as would be expected, it’s hard to be too depressed when remembering Stan Musial.
While I did cry a bit on the drive down, I held my emotions in check until I made the turn and caught a glimpse of the casket. That made these last five days all too real.
Stan was dressed in his red sports coat, white shirt and red tie with the white STL of the Cardinals cap on it. He looked as if he could have got up, hopped on his golf cart and taken one more lap around the warning track. If only … Befitting his service to our country, Stan’s casket was flanked by Naval Officers and draped with an American flag. A Marine in dress uniform stood with the family.
After paying respects at the casket, as mourners headed to the door, they were greeted by members of the Musial family. One family member shared that the family was really hoping for “one more opening day, but it wasn’t meant to be.” He then expressed his happiness that the Cardinals made it to October so Stan had one last time to ride around Busch.
As I left two young ladies, no more than 15 or 16 (I’m assuming great-granddaughters), smiled and thanked us for coming. At that point, I was able to finish what I set out to do — not only pay respect to The Man who has made the baseball team I love the class organization it is, but thank his family for sharing Stan with Cardinal Nation and the city I call home.
For those with access, Fox Sports Midwest will air the funeral service for Stan Musial starting at 10:30 Saturday morning. KSDK Channel 5 (St. Louis’ NBC affiliate) will also air the service, as well as stream it on their website, KSDK.com.