Stan Musial remembered for his great gifts — on and off the field

2013-01-26T16:15:00Z 2013-07-13T13:37:07Z Stan Musial remembered for his great gifts — on and off the fieldFROM STAFF REPORTS
January 26, 2013 4:15 pm  • 

ST. LOUIS • Cardinals great Stan Musial was remembered today as a "friend to thousands and thousands of people" not just in this country but throughout the world.

But it was St. Louis that he called home.

"Many believe St. Louis is a special place for baseball. Some even call it baseball heaven," said Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tenn. "Since 1941, Stan has called St. Louis home. And I think Stan enjoyed being Stan. He enjoyed the people. He enjoyed the sacred trust that existed between a fan and a baseball player, and a team."

Stika even quipped at one point that while Hollywood had not made a movie about Musial's life, perhaps the new Interstate 70 bridge being built across the Mississippi River it may be named for him.

The Mass concluded at about 1:10 p.m. Musial's funeral casket was draped with an American flag before the hearse left and procession left for Busch Stadium, where the cars arrived at 1:47 p.m. Family members got out of their cars to lay a wreath and individual flowers at the Musial statue.

A private burial was to follow.

During the Mass, Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. recalled Musial as the "heart and soul" of the franchise who knew Popes and presidents but always made time to provide an autograph or picture for a young baseball fan.

Television broadcaster Bob Costas recalled how in the late 1960s, Paul Simon asked in song "where did you go Joe Dimaggio?"

"No one in St. Louis ever had to wonder where Stan Musial had gone," Costas  said during a sometimes- emotional eulogy. "He was right here. Right here at home. Our greatest ballplayer, sure. But also our friend and neighbor."

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Andrew Edmonds, speaking on behalf of the Musial grandchildren, described the late great ballplayer as a "loving, caring patriarch" who bought McDonalds' food for the grandchildren on weekends and attended their sporting events.

Edmonds recalled how a Cardinal fan who attended last week's visitation told him that one of his grandfather's greatest gifts was that "he made nobodies feel like they were somebodies." 

Hundreds turned out for the funeral Mass today at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica. Dozens gathered outside on Lindell during the Mass.

Bagpipes played as the hearse carrying Stan Musial arrived shortly after 11 a.m. at the cathedral for today's funeral Mass. Pallbearers carried Musial's casket into the Cathedral while Amazing Grace was sung.

Among those in attendance were Lou Brock and other  Cardinals Hall of Famers, former Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, and former managers Tony LaRussa, Whitey Herzog and Joe Torre. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also was in attendance.

Lindell Boulevard is closed between Newstead and Taylor avenues near the cathedral.

The funeral was originally billed as private, but the Cardinals later announced the public can claim any unfilled seats in the cathedral, after family, friends and guests have been seated. About 50 fans gathered outside the Basilica prior to the Mass to claim some of the available seats. The Musial family had asked that no photos or video be taken inside, and that any mementos be left at the Musial statue at Busch Stadium.

Toward the end of the service, which ran a lot longer than expected, several dozen people began gathering outside the Basilica. Many of them were shivering against the bitter cold, but were determined to pay their last respects as the coffin exited the church.

The St. Louis County Police Pipes and Drums was ready to play shortly before 1 p.m., but stood down when it became clear it would be several more minutes until the service was finished. The pipe players put their instruments in a vehicle so the African blackwood on them wouldn't crack.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and a longtime friend of the Musial family, will preside at the Mass with St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson and Bishop Stika.

By the time the procession arrived, hundreds of people - many wearing their Cardinal red - began gathering near the Musial statue at Busch Stadium. 

Jack Yacovelli and his wife, Jan, were among them.

"The weirdest thing is going to be opening day. He hasn't missed an opening day since 1941, except for during the war," Jack Yacovelli said.

Mike Everding, 51. of Crestwood said he once met Musial and handed him a book report Everding had written in third grade.

“He autographed my third-grade book report,” Everding said today outside Busch Stadium. “He read the whole thing and autographed it, and gave me an A-plus-plus.”

Everding called Musial “the ambassador of St. Louis.”

Before the family left, the crowd broke out with an impromptu round of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

The Missouri Department of Transportation relieved a potential traffic headache in the city by delaying plans to close a stretch of Highway 40, between Kingshighway and Forest Park Parkway. MoDOT put off the project by one week because of weather forecasts calling for precipitation.

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