Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stan Musial's Autograph

The only autograph of a professional athlete I remember receiving as a kid was Stan Musial’s.  The three-time National League Most Valuable Player (1943, 1946, 1948), seven time batting title winner, and 1969 Hall of Fame inductee who played his entire 22 year baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals died this past January 19th.  Musial was 92 years old.  The story behind getting Musial’s signature is not hilarious or dramatic, but just an unplanned crossing of paths with one of baseball’s legendary great players.

My love for baseball began in the late 1950s when Musial was in the latter stage of his career.  Listening to the Cardinal games on a radio station out of St. Joseph, Missouri, I was able to know all about him, even though I lived in an American League city;  Kansas City.  I heard Cardinal radio broadcasters Harry Carey and Jack Buck always calling him, “Stan the Man”.  

In the winter of 1962, Kansas City had a pro basketball franchise in the ill-fated American Basketball League (ABL), the Kansas City Steers.  The idea of Harlem Globetrotter owner Abe Saperstein, the ABL’s only full season before it folded was in1961 – 1962.   It was while I was leaving a Steer’s game that I saw Musial.

I recognized him from pictures in sports magazines and newspapers.  As I think about it now, St. Louis had a pro basketball team at that time; the St. Louis Hawks.  The team did not move to become the Atlanta Hawks until 1968, so Musial probably did not come to Kansas City just to see a professional basketball game.  Being a basketball fan, he played in high school; he must have been in town on business and decided to attend the game. 

As the crowd was exiting the auditorium through the foyer, Musial and his small group stopped along the side to let the crowd pass.   I cannot remember who gave me a pen, either my father or brother.  I took it and went back to ask for his autograph.  Musial did not look annoyed and tell me to get lost, but he did not smile.  He just patiently signed the Steer’s program I handed him. 

I had forgotten about the autograph until I heard of Musial’s death.  Do I still have it?  There is a closet in my mother’s home that could still have junk from my younger days that I have to search.  I will be as thrilled as I was 51 years ago if I still have that old Kansas City Steers’ program.    If I cannot find it surely my initial disappointment will give way to the lasting fond memory of getting an autograph of a great Major League ballplayer; Stan “The Man” Musial.

What autograph of a famous athlete have you obtained?  What’s the story around you getting it?