After the Post-Dispatch published our book “Stan Musial, Baseball’s Perfect Knight” last fall, I got an email from Michael Dietz, who asked if he could order a photo from the book. His dad, David Dietz, was in one of the photos, right next to Stan after the final game of his career (he’s the dark-haired boy standing next to Stan and just to the left of the police officer).
We made the photo available, and Michael and I had a couple of email exchanges. I asked if his dad would mind writing his memories of that day. He graciously agreed. It seems fitting that on the day before Stan is to be honored as one of the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, it’s a good time for Mr. Dietz’s story about that day on Sept. 29, 1963, to be told.
Here’s Mr. Dietz:
I was 14 years old at the time. I would turn 15 that November. I lived at 5322 Geraldine Avenue in the Walnut Park neighborhood on the north side in St. Louis city. I remember I walked home from the stadium that day and it was three and a half miles. I knew the distance because I was going to Beaumont High School at the time, which was very close to the stadium and walked home from school frequently.
The game was on Sunday and my mother, who knew I was a big fan of Stan, bought tickets well in advance because she knew it would be a sell out for Stan's last game. My Mom and I sat somewhere in the left field upper deck. We were in the general area of the stadium background showing on the cover photo for the book jacket. We got there early and didn't miss any of the pregame event. I remember Stan coming out in a beige/cream colored Ford Thunderbird convertible. The car circled the field as Stan sat on top of the back seat waving the entire time. I also remember the part of the ceremony when the Boy Scout gave him the scout kerchief he is wearing in the cover photo.
When Stan came up to bat in the sixth inning he singled past the stretched arm of the rookie, Pete Rose. I always remembered that later and thought it was ironic when Pete eventually broke Stan's National League hit record. I was very sad when they took him out of the game after getting that hit. I always thought that no matter the score, if the Cardinals were losing, they still had a chance as long as Stan was due to come up to bat one more time in the game. It was a tight game and I was too young to realize, the point in taking him out after the base hit was to give the crowd one last time to give him a standing ovation, which we did.
I was also too naive to realize Stan wouldn't pack up and leave the stadium before the game was over. I thought I would never see him again and it was my last chance to get his autograph. So, I left my mother in the stands and walked out of the stadium as soon as Stan disappeared in the dugout. I knew where Stan parked his car during games. It was behind a tavern across the street. I know the book mentioned he had a blue Cadillac but I remember it as a metallic bluish green. The one unmistakable identification was the Missouri license plate "3000". Back than only the governor of the state could grant a vanity plate and he gave "3000" to Stan to commemorate his 3000 hits. Stan probably had the same plate since 1957, when he hit number 3000.
I walked directly to the car. Of course, Stan would not leave the ballpark until the final out and last interview. The game went into extra innings and the Cardinals didn't win until the 13th inning. In the meantime, I had staked out my position right next to the driver's side door. I stood there for a few hours with no one else around but I never left my position. I noticed the car was dusty and at some point during that time, I used my finger to write the message "We'll miss you Stan" in the dust on the windshield. I wrote it backwards so Stan could read it from inside the car. After the game was over, people started to collect around the car. I never moved an inch. I had been there too long to give it up to these late arrivals. When there was a commotion coming from the direction of the stadium, I knew it was Stan. I couldn't see him because of the crowd around him. There were a couple of policemen making room so he could get to his car. As they approached the car, I remember one of the policemen saying "just let him get in his car and than he'll sign autographs". I was standing between Stan and the door of his car, so I just moved enough for him to open the door and get in without giving up my position. Sure enough when Stan got in, he rolled down the window and began signing. I only had the program from the game that day and Stan signed it. I didn't want to leave, so I turned it around and he signed the program again. I remember thinking I should leave so others could move closer but I didn't want to leave Stan's side. I don't think I could have moved anyway because the pushing from the crowd was intense. After awhile, the policeman turned to the crowd and said that was all and they cleared a path. Stan started the car and he drove off.
My mother had gone home long before but I was so excited I probably ran most of the way home. The next day I walked up to the Globe Democrat stand on Union and West Florissant and bought a paper, so I could read and save all the details of Stan's last game. To my surprise there was a picture of me and Stan. It wasn't as good as the one in the book but you could tell it was me. I bought about ten copies of the paper and cut out the picture. Over the years, only one remained but I took it to a Sports Writers dinner at the old Stouffer's Hotel one year. My Mother, Ruth had given me the ticket for Christmas. Stan was on the program along with Ted Williams and Dan Devine. As soon as the dinner was over, Ted immediately left the room but Stan and Dan remained behind to sign autographs. Stan signed the picture from the Globe Democrat and today my son has it. He made a framed copy and I have it displayed in my office.