Stan the Man

My number one boyhood hero, Stan Musial, died on January 19, and he has been on my mind ever since.  I grew up in St. Louis where baseball is deeply embedded in the fabric of the community.  For my generation of St. Louisans, games announced on the radio by legendary sportscasters Harry Caray (in his pre-Cubs days) and Jack Buck provided the soundtrack of our summers.  At the center of each of those summers was Stan “the Man” Musial.  That simply wonderful nickname was apparently grudgingly but admiringly bestowed on Stan by the notoriously tough Brooklyn fans after witnessing countless Ebbets Field exploits of Musial at the expense of the hometown Dodgers.

Stan Musial’s last season was fifty years ago so I was pleasantly surprised and heartened by the significant attention his death received.  This was especially notable since he has long been regarded as perhaps baseball’s most underappreciated superstar.  So I find myself speculating about the reasons for this flurry of attention at the time of his death.  His career statistics are amazing, but that does not fully explain it.  A factor may be that he played 23 major league seasons for one team in one city, and neither he nor the team ever considered that it would be otherwise.  Perhaps the attention is related to nostalgia for an era long past.   In the Man’s last game of his career, he had two hits against the Cincinnati Reds.  Ironically, in the Reds lineup that day was rookie Pete Rose whose amazing performances on the field have been overshadowed by his conduct off the diamond.  Was that game the pivot, the moment, when a new era dawned in which we can still enjoy athletes’ talents but dare not count on them (or many other people for that matter) for anything more?  I prefer to believe that the outpouring for Stan the Man is rooted not in nostalgia or cynicism but in the decency, excellence, and character he exhibited so unpretentiously, reliably, and remarkably.

Another person who has been on my mind since Stan’s death is my father since he was my companion when I attended Cardinals games so many years ago.  My father has been deceased for almost thirty years, but the simple gift of those baseball games with him by my side gave me joy that has lasted my entire life.

No doubt the level of attention to and interest in Stan Musial is generational to a significant extent.  But the qualities he embodied and represented are timeless.  None of us here at All Saints’ will likely make the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but it is within our reach to model virtues and values to the young people in our lives, virtues and values that Stan Musial exhibited so faithfully.  Insofar as we parents and educators are successful in doing so, they and we shall be the better for it.

Until next time…

My best,

Leo

 

A Trip to Neverland

I am not sure where this blog entry is headed, but I feel compelled to write about a recent experience.

Last week my wife and I attended the touring production of Peter Pan, starring the agile and irrepressible Cathy Rigby in the title role.  I expected it to be an enjoyable evening of live theater, and it was.  But it was so much more than that for me in a way that I found amazingly moving.  As the production unfolded, I had a most vivid and powerful moment of nostalgia- something I certainly did not foresee.

The musical Peter Pan debuted when I was a boy, and I remember vividly seeing it for the first time.  I did not have the privilege of seeing it live on Broadway but rather on a black-and-white TV screen in our 1950’s St. Louis living room.  Much to my surprise- and delight! – I was transported back across the decades to that time, and my recall was amazingly vivid.  I remembered that Mary Martin (Peter Pan) and Cyril Ritchard (the villainous Dr. Hook) were the stars of the production.  But I remembered not only what I saw but also what I felt, especially at the moment when children like me (albeit with British accents) started flying in the sky.  It was one of the most overwhelming feelings of wonder and possibility I had ever experienced in my young life.  And the return of that feeling on January 9, Gammage Auditorium, Tempe, Arizona, was supremely consoling and purifying.  I felt so grateful to know that so many possibilities I could not envision years ago had come true in my life.  I am utterly grateful for the wholesomeness of wonder.

Certainly Peter Pan is scary at times, but not as scary as today’s fantasy.  The technology in Peter Pan is old school and archaic compared to contemporary technology.  Nonetheless I was left pondering why this old-fashioned moment left me so exhilarated and left me hoping that we are still able to provide similarly wonder-full and sweet moments for our children in the midst of the technological and sensory overload of today’s world.

Until next time…

My best,

Leo

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