The Dodgers' pitchers tend to have special memories of Musial. The numbers at the baseball database Retrosheet are not quite complete, but they show that Musial hit .359 with power for his career at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. It was supposedly Brooklyn fans—based on their griping "Here comes the man again," when Musial would come to the plate—who created the nickname Stan the Man. They held a Stan Musial Day in New York City at a Mets game once. Chicago Cubs fans once voted him their favorite player, ahead of all the hometown stars, including their own lovable Ernie Banks. That was real.
"All you have to do to understand what Stan Musial means is watch him around other Hall of Famers," La Russa says. "You can fool fans sometimes. You can fool the media sometimes. But you really can't fool other players. And when you see Musial in a group of Hall of Famers, they hold him in such high esteem. ... It's like he's on another level."
La Russa then tells his own Musial story. He did not really get to know Musial until he became manager of the Cardinals in 1996. By then La Russa had won a World Series, two pennants and more than 1,000 games as a manager. But whenever he found himself sitting in the office with Musial, he would call his father, Anthony, in Florida.
"Guess who I am in the office with, Pop," he would say.
And then Stan Musial would take the phone, and he would shout, "Whaddya say! Whaddya say! Whaddya say!" Then he would say, "Mr. La Russa, your son is doing a wonderful job here. Just wonderful."
And later in the day, almost without fail, Anthony would call his son and say, "Was that really Stan Musial?"
Anthony died in 2002. "I always had to tell him, 'Yeah, it was really Stan the Man,' " La Russa says, and, yes, there are tears in the eyes of the son.
DICK ZITZMANN HAS BEEN RUNNING Stan the Man Inc. for a long time now. He has seen the same scene again and again and again. Musial folds the dollar bill into a ring. Musial stops at a table in a restaurant and plays Happy Birthday on the harmonica. Musial reflexively hands out autographed cards to kids. Musial puts his hand on the shoulder of a teary-eyed fan and says, "No ... thank you!" Zitzmann has seen it all so many times that he has to remind himself that this is not how superstars normally act.
"Stan loves people," he says. "He wants you to be a friend. It really is amazing. When he signs an autograph, he is as happy as the person who is getting the autograph. That's the essence of Stan Musial. He is happy when he's around people."