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Of Galahad and Quests That Failed
Roger Kahn
August 23, 1976
Stan Musial was—and is—The Man of the hour, but for one black player and the minor leagues, times have been wrong
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August 23, 1976

Of Galahad And Quests That Failed

Stan Musial was—and is—The Man of the hour, but for one black player and the minor leagues, times have been wrong

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Unlike many self-made men from poor backgrounds, Musial is a liberal, and his liberalism seems to deepen as he ages.

"I don't think Polish jokes or Jewish jokes or black jokes are really funny," he said. "My dad came out of Poland and worked like hell all his life. What was funny about that? Pulaski came out of Poland and helped out in the American Revolution. Was that a joke? I've just come back from Poland, and I enjoyed the country, the people and seeing them work hard building high rises. Some of them knew me. I brought my harmonica along and played a little."

"Polish songs?"

"Yeah. Like Red River Valley."

At the park, fans flooded toward his box, demanding autographs and making it difficult to study the game. Musial singled out Pete Rose for praise and said he felt embarrassed that so many major-leaguers were hitting in the .200s. "There's no excuse for that. You know why it happens? They keep trying to pull everything, even low outside sliders. You can't do that. Nobody can. If you're a major league player, you ought to have pride. Learn to stroke outside pitches to the opposite field. That's part of your job. A major league hitter is supposed to be a professional."

"Do you miss playing?" I said as Rose rapped a single up the middle.

"No," Musial said. "Nice stroke, Pete. I quit while I still enjoyed it, but I put in my time. I like to travel now, but not with a ball club. Have you ever seen Ireland? Do you know how beautiful it is?"

After the game, we drove back to Musial's restaurant, and a crowd surrounded him in the lobby. He said to each, "How are ya? Where ya from?" One 50ish man was so awed that he momentarily lost the power of speech. He waved his arms and sputtered and poked his wife and pointed. Musial clapped the man gently on the back. "How are ya? Where ya from?" Musial said to him again. The man looked as if he might weep with joy. At length he recovered sufficiently to say a single word, " Fresno."

"Does this happen all the time?" I asked.

"Isn't it something?" Musial said. "And I'm 13 years out of the business. You know what Jack Kennedy said to me once? He said they claimed he was too young to be President and I was too old to be playing ball. Well, Jack got to be President, and two years later, when I was 42 years old, I played 135 games and I hit .330."

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