Post-Dispatch sources in Washington confirmed that Musial will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the White House. Musial will join other baseball greats who have won the award like Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Ted Williams. The award recipients are selected by the sitting president.
And some of you hate Obama.
This is really cool. It arises in large part due to a grassroots campaign, but even if no one had ever made a peep about it, Musial would be a worthy recipient. Not just because he was one of the most fantastic baseball players who has ever lived, but also because he, more than just about anyone, stands for the notion that a sports figure can be a role model, even if we are increasingly inclined to reject that notion. He has always been reported to be kind, decent, caring, hard working and all of the other things we wish athletes were, but usually aren’t due to their being, you know, human beings. He has given back to his community. He may truly be the last untarnished icon in baseball history. We’re just not in that business anymore. Him. Aaron maybe. Everyone else is either a bit tarnished or not an icon.
I had one brief interaction with Musial when I was a kid. It was at a memorabilia show where he was signing. My dad knew the guy running the show, so I got in early and was there when Musial showed up. When he arrived — by himself, after having driven in, not with any handlers — someone asked him if he wanted anything. Nope, I’m good, he said, don’t trouble yourself. Then he set up the table and chair where he’d be signing himself, got himself a Pepsi from a vending machine and then hung around and talked to my brother and I for a bit while waiting for the autograph-seekers to arrive. The guy was like your grandpa. The nice one.
I don’t know if that kind of thing earns you a Presidential Medal of Freedom, but it sure as hell can’t hurt. Congratulations Stan the Man.