Ceremonies for Musial at home plate put an end to this routine. But before that, Musial walked across the field, entered the stands and climbed several rows to shake hands with Maurice Stokes, the former Cincinnati Royals basketball star, long a victim of a disabling illness.
Exhaustion was nibbling at Musial. He played seven innings against the Cubs in a losing effort that mathematically eliminated the Cardinals from the pennant race on September 24. After singling in the seventh inning he left the game for a pinch runner and retired to the clubhouse. There he piled towels on an equipment trunk, pillowed his head on them and dozed, occasionally rousing himself to listen to a radio broadcast of the game.
After the game he went with Ernie Banks on a long drive through late-afternoon traffic jams to the Better Boys Foundation on South Pulaski Road. Banks had telephoned Musial in Cincinnati asking him to make the appearance at the foundation's clubrooms, situated in the middle of a Negro district. The visit turned into a shambles. For nearly an hour television technicians from two networks fiddled with their equipment. It proved impossible to quiet the children sufficiently to enable Banks and Musial to be heard. By the time he returned to the hotel Musial was too tired to do more than nap for an hour. But then he went to a dinner party at the Club Boyar on East Delaware, one of his favorite Chicago eating places. It was a long and convivial evening. Musial relaxed happily and sang in an improvised quartet when he was not pacing the length of the table to see that everyone was having a good time.
Next day before the game Musial visited in the clubhouse with Erv Dusak, former major-leaguer and now an insurance salesman, who 22 years before, almost to the day, had been called up by the Cardinals, along with Musial, from Rochester. Dusak was considered the more promising prospect of the two. Both men looked pensively at a group picture of the 1942 Cardinals: Mort and Walker Cooper, Terry Moore, Enos Slaughter, Marty Marion, Whitey Kurowski, Howie Pollet, Johnny Beazley.
"What a gang that was," said Musial.
Mayor Richard Daley sent his official car to pick up Musial at Wrigley Field after the game. With a motor escort clearing the way, Musial rode quickly to City Hall. There, in Daley's office, packed with aldermen and city officials, the mayor gave Musial a thick bronze medal, proclaiming him an honorary citizen of Chicago. With it went a Chicago city flag and a certificate of merit. Musial gave Daley a signed baseball and was rushed back to Wrigley Field, where a huge spray of flowers, sent to him by a Polish group, stood incongruously in front of his locker. The flowers went with Musial to St. Louis by bus and chartered Cardinal airplane.
Black clouds and threatening rain were hanging over St. Louis when Musial got up at 7:45 on the last day of his playing career. By the time he had been to Mass at nearby St. Raphael's, finished breakfast and climbed into his blue Cadillac at 10:30 for the drive to Busch Stadium, the skies were clear.
When Musial entered the Cardinal locker room 20 minutes later it was jammed with writers, photographers, TV cameramen. Stan grinned and shook his head. "I've just changed my mind," he said. "I'm not retiring." Manager Johnny Keane walked by. "Hello, John," said Musial. "Am I playing today?"
Musial walked onto the field, into the batting cage, drove two balls into the right-field stands and one against the screen. Returning to the clubhouse, he rested until 1:30. Then, walking briskly along the ramp that leads to the field, he stepped into the sunlight to face a crowd of 27,576 in the stands and a gathering of dignitaries in front of the pitcher's mound that included Ford Frick, Warren Giles, Joe Cronin, Governor John Dalton of Missouri, St. Louis Mayor Raymond Tucker, Cardinal Owner Gussie Busch, Sid Keener of the Baseball Hall of Fame, assorted local officials and the Musial family: wife Lillian, son Dick, daughters Geraldine, Janet and Jeanne. Except for the family, everyone made a speech. So did Stan.
"As long as I live," he said, "this will be the day I'll remember most.... If my baseball career has taught me anything it is this: the opportunity America offers any young man who wants to get to the top of his chosen career. I want to thank God for giving me the talents I have had and the good health so that the 22 years of baseball have been possible." The crowd shrieked itself hoarse.