am 12. Mai 2011
My first baseball memory is mother directing my attention to one of Stan Musial's hits as it flew into Sportsman's Park's right field bleachers. Ever since then I have been a fan of Stan Musial as I watched the twilight of his career and his magnificent life as the Greatest Cardinal of them All and first citizen of St. Louis. Author George Vecsey has brought together the facts, legends, stories and views that Cardinal fans have savored for decades.
"Stan Musial: An American Life" tells the story of a full American life, a life in baseball, a life of a family man and a life of man who smoothly transitioned from athlete to businessman and public citizen. It takes us to Stan's origins in Donora, Pennsylvania with his Polish immigrant father and American born mother. It guides the reader through Stan's childhood, his rise through the minor leagues and introduces us the people who helped him along the way. Stan's years of stardom are depicted as a time when a good, decent ballplayer became the idol of a nation. After his career was over, Stan became a successful restaurateur, businessman and senior baseball icon.
Much of the story is told through the words of people who were important to Stan during his long life: his wife Lil and their children, his long time team mates, Red Schoendienst and Marty Marion, some who shared a few years with him, such as Bob Gibson and Tim McCarver, friends and opponents too many to mention.
A recurring theme in this book is that Stan never received the acclaim that his play merited even though, Vecsey claims, the New York media gave him his due. The comparison of and interplay between the trio of contemporary legends, Stan, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio makes for interesting reading. Vecsey makes the case that, as a player, Stan was their equal and, as a man, he may have been their better.
This book's greatest strength is also its weakness. It is, to a great extent, a collection of anecdotes more than a coherent biography. In this respect it is reminiscent of Carl Sandburg's "Lincoln", not bad company to share. He does mention that Stan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years ago, but any criticisms of Stan are few and very mild. This book is neither spiced nor soiled by scandalous gossip. I am really glad that I read this one. I am confident that any fan of Stan, the Cardinals and any lover of baseball will enjoy it as much as I do.