It was shortly before 10 on a hot morning and Stan Musial, the rookie general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, had already put in two hours of desk work in his comfortable, unpretentious office at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. He had smoked his first cigar of the day while carefully reading the newspapers from sports page to stock market quotations to weather forecasts to front page, made several phone calls, accepted yet another invitation for a luncheon speech and spoken to his manager, Red Schoendienst. After clearing his desk, Musial started walking toward the playing field where the Cardinals would have their next-to-last workout before commencing the long preseason exhibition schedule.
Before getting to the field, however, Stanley had to pause to take care of a few more details and examine certain things that go with the job he inherited only six weeks ago when Bob Howsam left St. Louis for the security that a three-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds would bring. In front of the ball park he stopped to watch a crowd of people gathering to purchase tickets for the spring training games. When the crowd spotted Musial, mouths opened in surprise, and one of those typical St. Petersburg old-timers, wearing a loud shirt with a string tie, called to him. "Stan," he said, "how about an autograph?" Musial walked over to the crowd to oblige. "Glad you got the job," one of the people said. "You deserve it. Howzit feel, Stan? Howzit feel?"
Musial smiled and tapped the man on the shoulder. "Feels pretty good," he said, "pretty good. Just starting to get my feet wet, you know? It's a long way from being a sore-armed pitcher from Donora, Pennsylvania to a job like this." Musial's head went back in laughter, and he seemed to be enjoying the conversation even more than the friendly crowd was; those who have made a serious study of Musial will swear that he was enjoying it more.
Seldom in baseball does a truly great player rise to the position of general manager. Before Musial's appointment late in January you could count the ones who did on the fingers of one glove: Eddie Collins, Herb Pennock, Hank Greenberg and Joe Cronin. Indeed, in baseball today only four men—Paul Richards of Atlanta, Haywood Sullivan of Boston, Ed Lopat of Kansas City and George Selkirk of Washington—were ever active major league players. And even these four served apprenticeships as field managers with major league clubs or with minor league clubs or both before moving up to the front office. Musial has never managed for one day nor has he ever expressed a desire to.
There is no doubt, either, that Musial accepted a very hot seat when he took the job as St. Louis general manager. In the 13 years that Anheuser-Busch Inc. has owned the Cards they have hired, used up, become disenchanted with, lost or fired six different general managers, and done likewise with six field managers. Those figures do not include Branch Rickey, Leo Durocher and Charlie Metro, all of whom were allegedly waiting in the wings for somebody to fail. Along with that precarious history, Musial, Schoendienst and the Cards are obliged to begin the 1967 season with a schedule that has them playing their first 19 games against San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Houston and Cincinnati, teams that are either pennant favorites or rivals that Cardinal teams of the recent past have had the most difficulty with.
As though these burdens were not enough, St. Louis will be fielding a starting lineup that collectively draws more than $400,000 in salaries—one of the highest-paid in major league history. It is a lineup that many people believe is strong enough to make St. Louis a genuine challenger for the pennant despite recent odds from Reno that make the Cards a 12-1 overlay. In other words, a lot is expected of the Cardinals—and Musial.
After leaving the crowd at the ticket lines that morning Musial walked onto the playing field, talking about his new job and his hopes for the ball club. He was dressed in a blue hat, purple sweater covering a sport shirt with red and gray stripes, blue slacks and black loafers with tassels on them. He went over to chat with Schoendienst. Musial and Schoendienst were roommates for 13 years as players. (Schoendienst once said, "I don't think there was ever a time when one of us went out the door without the other.") Each took defeat bitterly and played despite severe injuries and illnesses. Once in New York they played a game and lost and returned to the hotel. Each told the other that he felt a little cold coming on, and they went to bed. Neither was able to get up the next morning, and when the doctor arrived he discovered two cases of double pneumonia.
When a school of photographers advanced upon them Musial put his arm around Schoendienst and carried on a conversation with the photographers in order to make their job easier. "It's a little early in the morning for this," he said. "You guys ought to know that Red and I don't hit our peak until about noon." He laughed, and Schoendienst laughed with him. "How would you guys like it if we came out at 10 in the morning and started to take your picture? Is this color or black and white? Color? Yeah, yeah. O.K., Red, give 'em your living smile. One more? Sure, sure, one more. Why not?" After the session was over, Musial leaned against the batting cage, watching the hitters, and explained why he had never become a field manager.
"It's been said," he began, "that I didn't want to be a field manager because I'd be too easy on the players. That isn't true. I'd probably be too tough on them. I never even thought about managing, because that is a thing you have to set your sights on. I never set my sights on that at all. My reason for it was because I did not want that daily diet of winning and losing. Sure, I'll have some of that now in this job, but unless you have been very close to a big-league baseball team you can't realize what that daily winning-and-losing thing is, how it grows on you and gets at you. This job should be more the sort of thing I like, and I like it already. You don't have to concern yourself so totally with one loss. It shouldn't hurt you as much inwardly as it does a player, even though it will certainly hurt some. But sitting up here away from the dugout I can look at a game and see what we need to make the team better and then go out and try to get it."
Musial on spoons