I can’t claim to have known Stan Musial, who died this evening at the age of 92, and you’re sure to find far more thorough tributes to “The Man” in various other corners of the baseball media landscape.
But I figured I’d share some memories from the couple of times I was lucky enough to meet him.
I was a sophomore third-string catcher on the JV baseball team at St. Louis’ Chaminade College Prep in 2003 and our starting third baseman — a talented freshman with a very familiar batting stance named Andrew Edmonds — was one of Stan’s grandsons. Andrew of course wore No. 6, even when he eventually shifted his focus to ice hockey.
Stan would show up at Chaminade’s baseball field every few weeks, sit with his wife in matching lawn chairs just behind the backstop, and sign autographs for the duration of sloppy seven-inning high school games. I always felt bad that people were hounding him, but he never stopped shaking hands or scribbling away on different items except during his grandson’s plate appearances. St. Louis loved Stan and Stan loved St. Louis right back. It was an active mutual affection that seems likely to somehow remain.
I feel like everyone I know in St. Louis has a ball signed by Stan Musial. They spill loosely out of cabinets at my parents’ house and I keep one at my apartment that he signed for me personally. He told me not to put it in a case — “get it dirty” — so I usually keep it in my softball glove. It has a significantly different feel tonight.
Stan knew his signature gave people joy so he signed everything. He was simple like that. Pure class.
Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.
For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.
So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?
The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.
I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.
Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.
But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.
United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.
Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.
The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.