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It was in reference to one thing. Stan Musial, neither a perfect warrior nor any sort of knight, is my particular baseball hero. I once heard a teammate who knew him well call him a choker. "Considering his ability, he didn't drive in enough runs," the man said. Musial heard about that remark, but would not stoop to make a response. During his 22 years with the Cardinals, Musial batted in a total of 1,951 runs. That is the fifth highest total in the history of the major leagues. According to Jackie Robinson, Musial remained passive in baseball's struggle to integrate itself. "He was like Gil Hodges," Robinson said. "A nice guy, but when it came to what I had to do, neither one hurt me and neither one helped." But four years ago Musial worked quietly for the election of George McGovern as President. He is a political activist, and on racial questions he favors the men whom Robinson almost certainly would have preferred.
Musial is a man of limited education, superior intelligence, a somewhat guarded manner, a surface conviviality and a certain aloofness, because he knows just who he is. Stan Musial, Hall-of-Famer, great batsman and, 13 years after he last cracked a double to right center field, still an American hero.
We were rambling about baseball in one of his offices in St. Louis when my wife, who can be more direct than I, interposed five questions.
"By the time you got to be 35," she said, "and your muscles began to ache, did you still enjoy playing baseball?"
Musial nodded, touched his sharp chin and said, "I always wanted to be a baseball player. That's the only thing I ever wanted to be. Now figure that I was in the exact profession I wanted and I was at the top of that profession and they were paying me $100,000 a year. Yes. I enjoyed playing baseball very much right up to the end of my career."
"About politics?" Wendy asked.
"I'm a Democrat. Tom Eagleton, the Senator, says he remembers sitting in my lap when he was a kid visiting our spring-training camp years ago."
"What do you think of Jimmy Carter?"
Musial laughed to himself. "I'd have to say he's very unusual for a candidate."
"You worked for Lyndon Johnson?"