By RAYMOND ROLAK
Letter and Social Networking Campaign Helped
Wash. D.C.– Stan Musial, 90, spoke with strength and dignity as he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House. Looking on was his wife of over 70 years, Lillian. Musial said emphatically, “I am proud to be a Cardinal.”
The humble sportsman received along with two other athletic notables, basketball great, Bill Russell and former President George H.W. Bush.
It took a grass roots effort of social networking and the campaign blossomed, helping to get Musial the overdue honor. Ron Waterman of the St. Louis Cardinals was the coordinator for the ‘Stand for Stan’ project. Cardinal supporters and Musial admirers were encouraged to take pictures of themselves with the caricature of ‘Stan-the-Man’ and mimic the literacy campaign of Flat Stanley. Folks encouraged others with their pictures of ‘Stand for Stan’.
“The day we started the project, the team (Cardinals) was in San Diego, and there were fans already in the stadium with ‘Stand for Stan’ posters,” said Watermon. “It took a life of its own and just grew, I am so happy to be here to see this. Everyone in the Cardinal Family got involved, including the players.”
There were 13 other honorees including, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, John H. Adams, Maya Angelou and financier Warren Buffett. Also presented were Jasper Johns, Gerda Weismann Klein, Dr. Tom Little, Sylvia Mendez, Jean Kennedy Smith, John J. Sweeney and musician Yo-Yo Ma.
Musial was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1969 and the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1973. He was genuinely humbled by this latest honor. He played for the Cardinals as #6 for 22 seasons. The three times National League MVP had won seven NL batting titles.
Musial helped the growth of Little League baseball in Poland and has acted as an unofficial emissary to the country. The Little League Baseball Training Center in Kutno, Poland is named after him. He was awarded the Cavalier Cross of the Order of Merit, the Polish Government’s highest civilian honor.
Musial also was on three World Series teams as a player and directed another winner as the Cards’ general manager in 1967. He won seven National League batting titles and was MVP three times. His great sports appeal was national in scope. Musial became part of the fabric of American culture when in 1946; the spectators in Brooklyn, New York gave him his now famous nickname, ‘THE MAN’.
The senior President Bush, 86, had played baseball at Yale and participated in the first NCAA baseball finals in 1947 and 1948. Held in Kalamazoo, Michigan on the campus of Western Michigan University, the former President said, “We got our picture taken with Babe Ruth and I thought that was heady stuff but here I am with Stan-the-Man. I am so honored to be here with him.”
Russell won two NCAA championships at the University of San Francisco and 11 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics. Most recently he has been writing books and making college campus appearances.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) noted that umpires never ejected Musial in more than 3,000 games. "Stan exemplifies the values of sportsmanship, discipline, hard work, grace, consistency, excellence and humility. He is truly deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom," said Durbin.
There is a statue of ‘Stan the Man’ outside of Bush Stadium in St. Louis. It is inscribed with this quote by former baseball executive Ford Frick, “Here stands baseball’s warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
EDITORS NOTE: Raymond Rolak was a baseball scout for the St. Louis Cardinals