In the lobby of the Netherland Hilton the next afternoon Musial encountered a small band of youngsters who had been roaming the lobby and corridors of the hotel since early morning in search of him. He began to sign his name for them rapidly, and then, without warning, an astounding event took place: Musial finally ran out of patience. A tousled boy handed him a pad. "Sign eight times on eight different sheets," he ordered. "Why not?" said Musial.
"And now," said the boy, "one more thing. I want you to come across the street with me and walk down to the end of the block and say hello to my mother and father. They're waiting in the car for me."
"No," said Musial.
The next afternoon 25,706 turned out to see him play his final game in Cincinnati. In high spirits once again, he spontaneously struck up a dialogue with Joe Garagiola, the broadcaster and an old Cardinals teammate, burlesquing those ballplayers who bemoan the passing of the good old days.
"Then," shouted Musial in mock bitterness, "we didn't have any radio or any television or any writers following us around. We just played ball."
"That's right," agreed Garagiola. "We didn't have any bats, we just played ball."
"We didn't have ceremonies at home plate," said Musial. "We just played ball, and we hit .370. Kids today have it too easy. We just played ball."
"No batting helmets either," snarled Garagiola. "We just let our hair grow long, and we just played ball."
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. 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.