Stan the Man from Donora
Some months ago, I examined a pair of Stan Musial biographies at a friend’s request. Not long afterward, “Stan the Man“ hit the shelves. What makes Wayne Stewart’s book different?
Stewart shares Musial’s hometown and writes much of the book from that perspective. How appropriate. Though Musial found stardom in a big way, he never lost sight of his beginnings. Stewart’s book is ripe with anecdotes about the man fond of returning to high school reunions and entertaining fellow classmates with his harmonica.
“For as famous as he was, he was very laid back. Always just a nice, nice guy,” one friend said. “He makes you feel that you are as important as he is, and he never changed that attitude,” said another Donora resident. (Stan, 33) Classmate Dorothy Kovacik recalled memories of Stan the student. “He was horrible in shorthand class and would never do his nightwork. I did a lot of nightwork for him. Miss Perry gave him the dickens for not doing the work himself.” (18)
Even as Musial took a ribbing at school, playing ball in Donora hill country strengthened his legs and improved his balance. It took plenty of hard work on Stan’s part and help from Stan’s mom, Mary, to convince the family patriarch that playing for the St. Louis Cardinals presented a worthy future. But looking back, Lukasz couldn’t help but swell with pride. Stan connected on his first ML home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and who came up with the ball but Stan’s pal from Donora, Steven Posey.
Musial hit 475 home runs in all. No wonder he is happy about what he accomplished. “Well, if you were me, wouldnâ€™t you be smiling?” he’d say. (xi)
Giving back to his hometown also pleased Stan. Musial owned several restaurants and was “wealthy, independent of the game,” according to a 1955 Life magazine report. (173) Whenever a Donora resident came to visit Musial’s establishment, he or she was told the bill was on Stan. More recently, after Ulice Payne Jr. became CEO and president of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002, the executive received a proud call from his fellow Donora resident.
Besides Musial’s altruism, Stewart substantiates “The Man’s” stardom with vivid details of the outfielder’s feats, baseball of the era, World War II and other events.
“Stan the Man” is an entertaining account that reads more like an oral history than a statistical narrative. Dodgers hurler Carl Erskine once said, “If Musual had played in New York, he would be the greatest living ballplayer.” (208) Now, Musial finally gets the attention he deserves in this 2010 account.
Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.