- A Monument to MusialThe History of a Statue
In August of 1968, Stan Musial’s status as an iconic figure of St. Louis baseball was underscored with the unveiling of an enormous statue memorializing him as the quintessential Cardinal. This monument to Redbird sainthood is remarkable for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that Musial was honored in this distinctive way at such a young age. Only forty-seven years old when the statue was completed and just a few years into his retirement, Stan was already deemed deserving to be a symbol of his team’s tradition. He was honored in bronze a year before he was even eligible to be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Musial certainly understood the honor of having his statue erected before his plaque went up on the wall in Cooperstown.1 At the unveiling ceremony, Stan joked that he was “feeling eighteen feet tall” in reference to how high the redoubtable monument rose; it was a ten-foot, five-inch figure on an eight-foot, six-inch base. Deeply moved by the occasion Stan also declared, “I want to thank everyone—for my mother and the Musial family—for making me a Cardinal forever.” This moment was a crucial one in Stan’s life as he became the definitive Mr. Cardinal, leaving behind, to some extent, such other identities as the Boy from Donora. Many of the still-living “Cardinals legends” who had played with Stan were invited and many attended. In the presence of his many great colleagues Musial was declared the greatest. The celebration featured a reunion of members of the 1941 team—a collection of players who had been there to witness the emergence of the little-known rookie who would go on to become Stan the Man. The 1941 Cardinals who were able to make it to the party included Johnny Beazley, Walker Cooper, Frank Crespi, Erv Dusak, Harry Gumbert, Ira Hutchinson, Howard Krist, Whitey Kurowski, Eddie Lake, Gus Mancuso, Marty Marion, Steve Mesner, Johnny Mize, Terry Moore, Don Padgett, Howie Pollet, Enos Slaughter, Lon Warneke, and Ernie White.2 The lively pregame portion of the program involved Musial running out onto the field in full uniform [End Page 27] to join his 1941 teammates, who were in street clothes and occupying their old fielding positions.
The idea for a monument to Musial came from his good friend Bob Broeg, who had become a kind of high priest of Stan the Man.3 In fact, that renowned nickname was itself the result of Broeg’s writings. Brooklyn fans may have been the first to chant “Here comes The Man, again! Here comes The Man!,” but Broeg seized upon the possibilities of the name as a means to celebrate the remarkable baseball potency of this quiet, hardworking, mild-mannered citizen of the national pastime. As Broeg’s passionate advocacy declared, Stan was not just one of the best hitters—he was the man. Calling him Stan the Man asserted, in the face of whatever anyone might say in favor of other hitters, that this guy was the one we should most admire. Broeg was, of course, not alone in his devotion to Musial. For instance, Bob Burnes, the top baseball writer for the St. Louis Globe Democrat, was also a Musial supporter. Burnes, who had started his career as a beat writer for the Browns, was not as close to Musial as Broeg was; nevertheless, Burnes was also a steady fan of Musial and his legend. Furthermore, in many of the other cities around the country there were sports columnists with a special affection for Musial, regarding him as the ideal of the congenial star player. It may sound reductive or sentimental to say that the enthusiasm for a Musial monument had something to do with a groundswell of support for the human decency allied with traditional notions of good sportsmanship that Stan seemed to represent, but that was what was happening.
Major-league baseball has striven since its beginnings to be acceptable to imperatives of moral rightness; however, as hard as baseball has tried to satisfy the moral...