Lillian "Lil" Musial, the wife of St. Louis Cardinals legend and baseball great Stan Musial for more than 70 years, died Thursday at home surrounded by family members. She was 91. Grandson Brian Schwarze confirmed the death.
Lil Musial died at 6 p.m. at the couple's home in Ladue. "She passed on her favorite number," he said. Stan Musial's uniform number was 6.
Schwarze said his grandmother recently had been ill.
"We've all kind of known this was coming," Schwarze said. "She went in peace."
Lillian Suzan Labash was born in 1920, one of eight children of Sam and Anna Labash. Her parents owned a family grocery store in Donora, Pa. Lil first met Stan after her father took her to see the Donora Zincs play in 1934. The 15-year old Musial was pitching for the semi-pro baseball team.
"It was inevitable that we were going to see each other and be together," Stan Musial once said.
Lil was later said to be smitten after seeing him in a basketball uniform, according to previous Post-Dispatch reports. She also loved his curly brown hair. Stan and Lil became high school sweethearts and later married. Stan was playing Class D minor league baseball at the time.
“We have lost a valued member of the Cardinals family,” Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Lil was the love of Stan’s life -- a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She was a remarkable woman who touched the lives of so many people. From her selfless work in organizing the Cardinals Pinch Hitters group to her more recent efforts to help homeless, runaway girls with the Covenant House, Lil was always helping others."
In the book "Stan the Man" by Wayne Stewart, teammates of Musial said Lil Musial stayed in the background but was always supportive of her superstar husband. Former Cardinals player Charlie James said in the book published in 2010 that Lil "was very family oriented, she took good care of their kids. She was easygoing."
"Life is family. That's what it's all about," Lil Musial said in a Post-Dispatch article in 1985.
Stan Musial's niece Laurel Grimes told the author Lil was "a resourceful person, like a lot of women who've had to raise their kids while their husbands had a job that's on the road. ... They've definitely been a team. He's said that she's his rock."
In addition to her husband, Lil Musial is survived by four children, 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been edited to reflect the location of Mrs. Musial's parents' store and correct the spelling of her middle name. That information was incorrect in an earlier version.
Patrick M. O'Connell is a reporter for STLtoday.com and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.