Saturday, January 19, 2013

Two heroes from my childhood gone.

Two of the greatest names in baseball of my lifetime died today. Stan Musial was the left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals for most of my childhood and more than a decade before that. He never wore another uniform and the St. Louis owners knew trading him away was asking for a mob with pitchforks at their home the next day.

So many great ballplayers are not great people. They live not to fail and their talent is so immense, they can think like this and still be the best. Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds... the list goes on and on. That hatred of failure is not a ticket to success. Billy Beane was that way, but he wasn't as supremely talented, and his career as a ball player did not match his potential.

Stan Musial was a model ballplayer. Curt Flood, a great ballplayer with a deservedly big chip on his shoulder, said he knew he could never give less than 100% whenever he put on the uniform because when he was a young man, he saw it demonstrated every day with a smile by Stan Musial.

I was never a Cardinal fan, but as a boy I gave him the greatest compliment a Giants fan could give him. I hated his every at bat and breathed a sigh of relief if he made an out or the Giants could still hold a lead in an inning when he came up.


Being an odd kid, I was a Baltimore Oriole fan growing up in Oakland. I loved the Giants, 49ers and Raiders when I was wee. The A's were still in Kansas City, so I didn't care about them. But I also decided to root for one baseball team and one football team because I liked their logo or name. The Steelers only had a logo on one side of their helmet. I thought that was cool. I was a bird watcher on the West Coast and had never seen a Baltimore Oriole, so I decided that I'd be a fan of that team, too.

I made this decision to root for the Steelers and the Orioles in the early 1960s, when both teams well and truly sucked. They both became better in time, the Orioles improving with a bunch of great young pitchers - Cuellar, Palmer and McNally - and a new manager named Earl Weaver.

Earl had that hatred of failure. He was not a nice guy, but he was there for his team. He had a mind like a jeweled watch and a mouth like an open sewer.

And I mean an open sewer in a city wracked with dysentery.

His best nickname was Earl Fucking Weaver.

My favorite of all his many foul curses is this.

Pious born-again ballplayer: Skip, don't you want me to walk in the way of The Lord?
Earl Fucking Weaver: I want you to walk with the fucking bases loaded, asshole!

Stan "The Man" Musial died today. Earl Fucking Weaver died today.

If you are in the line for Best Living Left Fielder or Best Living Manager, move up one place.


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