ST. LOUIS (AP) - Baseball great Stan Musial already has a statue
outside of Busch Stadium and a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y. On
Tuesday, the former St. Louis Cardinal received the nation's
highest civilian honor, the presidential Medal of Freedom.
Musial was among 15 recipients honored during a ceremony at the
White House. President Barack Obama called the Hall-of-Famer "a
gentleman you would want your kids to emulate."
Musial, 90, wore his familiar Cardinals-red sports coat during
the ceremony shown on St. Louis television and the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch website. He beamed as the president placed the medal
around his neck.
Missouri politicians said the honor was appropriate for the
baseball immortal whose nickname, "The Man," was as appropriate
for his philanthropy and kindness as for his on-the-field success.
U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, a St. Louis Democrat, recalled
watching Musial from the stands of Sportsman's Park as a boy, then
getting to know him as an adult. He said Musial showed great
courage in 1947 by welcoming Jackie Robinson, baseball's first
black player, into the National League.
"Stan Musial is a national treasure," Clay said. "His
remarkable life represents the very best of America."
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Musial was not only the
greatest Cardinal ever "but a great philanthropist who's used his
notoriety to help others in need."
Gov. Jay Nixon said the medal was "appropriate for a man who is
both a baseball immortal and an extraordinary American and
Musial, a native of Donora, Pa., was signed by the Cardinals as
a pitcher but converted to the outfield after a shoulder injury in
the minor leagues. It worked out well.
He was a 24-time All-Star who retired after the 1963 season with
a .331 batting average and 475 home runs. Of his 3,630 career hits,
exactly half came at home and half on the road.
He earned the nickname "The Man" in 1946, when Post-Dispatch
sportswriter Bob Broeg heard fans at Ebbets Field welcome Musial to
the plate by saying, "Here comes the man."
Musial was the general manager of the 1964 Cardinals that won
the World Series in seven games over the New York Yankees. That
victory came a year after his retirement from playing.
He has remained a beloved figure in St. Louis. In fact, it was a
grassroots "Stand for Stan" campaign that helped convince the
White House to honor Musial with the Medal of Freedom. The
Cardinals promoted the idea through Facebook, Twitter and other
social media, and politicians quickly joined in letter-writing
Musial is held in such high regard by the team and its players
that current Cardinals star Albert Pujols agreed to extend to
Wednesday his deadline to sign a contract extension or test free
agency after the 2011 season. The previous deadline was Tuesday,
but Pujols and the Cardinals didn't want to distract from Musial's
The Medal of Freedom is given to those who have made important
contributions to U.S. national security, world peace, culture or
other significant public or private endeavors. Other recipients on
Tuesday included former President George H.W. Bush, cellist Yo-Yo
Ma, basketball great Bill Russell and businessman Warren Buffett.