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Musial's life and career honored in memorial service

Musial's life and career honored in memorial service
ST. LOUIS -- Family, friends and fans gathered on Saturday to say goodbye to one of St. Louis' finest, Hall of Famer Stanley Frank Musial, who died a week ago at the age of 92.

Musial's life and baseball career were celebrated during a two-plus hour funeral mass at St. Louis' Cathedral Basilica, which had been the site of Musial's public visitation service two days earlier. On this day, the Basilica was full, with several baseball luminaries among those in attendance.

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Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB executive Joe Torre were there, as was former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and his successor, Mike Matheny. Nearby sat former Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, a man who once shed his "El Hombre" nickname as a show of respect to Musial.

Cardinal teams from the last several decades were represented by the club's Hall of Famers, all of whom were dressed in their red sport coats, the same one Musial was to be buried in during a private ceremony later Saturday afternoon. Mike Shannon, Jim Edmonds, John Mabry and Jason Motte also sat in the Basilica pews.

Team president Bill DeWitt III served as one of eight pallbearers who brought Musial's white casket into the Basilica shortly after 11 a.m. CT. When the hearse arrived, bagpipes played outside the Basilica doors. Those inside sang "Amazing Grace" as members of the Musial family took their seats.

"He was a great player, but he was a better person," said Motte, who traveled from Memphis with his wife and their newborn daughter to pay his respects to a man he met a handful of times at Busch Stadium. "That's why he touched so many people. To be here for him and his family, I wouldn't have missed it. He is one of those people that we can learn from in this organization about how to do things the right way."

That was the message that several men delivered from the pulpit on Saturday.

Bishop Richard Stika offered a personal homily, during which he recalled those days after mass that Musial would open his trunk and pass out trinkets or sign autographs for those who had helped him and his late wife, Lil, to their car.

Another four individuals then delivered remarks of remembrance, beginning with Cardinals principal owner Bill DeWitt, Jr., who first met Musial when he was a young child. DeWitt, whose father was a baseball executive, grew up around Sportsman's Park.

"Stan Musial represented and personified [a] standard of excellence for almost 70 years," DeWitt said, adding that while Musial was friends with presidents and Popes, he is most remembered for being a friend of the masses.

Famed sportscaster and St. Louis-native Bob Costas stepped to the microphone next and, after stealing Yogi Berra's line of -– "Always go to your friend's funeral. Otherwise they won't come to yours." -– he delivered some the funeral's most poignant stories.

Costas first captured the context of Musial's career, asserting that perhaps Musial lacked appropriate national appreciation simply because he went about things the right way and did so outside of the bright New York City lights.

"What was the hook with Stan Musial?" Costas asked. "Other than the distinctive stance and one of baseball's best nicknames, it seems all Stan had going for him was more than two decades of sustained excellence as a ballplayer and more than nine decades as a thoroughly decent human being."

Costas, who had been asked by Musial to speak at the funeral, choked back tears twice during his remarks. He did so the first time as he retold the story of Musial's actions at an All-Star Game during the 1950s, when Musial walked over to a group of black players who were playing card games and said, 'Deal me in.' No other white ballplayers had approached the group.

"That was his way," Costas said, "of letting those players know that they were welcome."

Costas had to gather himself again a few minutes later, when he spoke about a dinner he once hosted when Mickey Mantle was in town. Stan and Lil Musial had been invited to join. After the Musials left that night, Mantle, as Costas recalled, turned to him and offered the following:

"You know, I had as much ability as Stan, maybe more. Nobody had more power than me. Nobody could run faster than me. But Stan was a better player because he's a better man than me. Because he got everything out of his life and his ability that he could. And he'll never have to live with all the regret that I have to live with."

Two members of Musial's family followed Costas, beginning with Andrew Edmonds, one of Stan and Lil Musial's 11 grandchildren. He told of a grandfather who made people happier just by his presence.

Edmonds said that he'd often be asked what it was like to have Musial as a grandfather. Edmonds said he would answer by noting that Musial "was the same loving, caring patriarch that a lot of family's share." He remembered his grandfather as the one who'd bring McDonalds over on Sunday mornings and who would attend his grandchildren's sporting events.

Closing out the funeral mass was Musial's son-in-law Martin Schwarze, who opened with Musial's trademark quip of "Whaddya Say! Whaddya Say!" He went on to note that "what you saw in the public is what we saw in the private," adding that the family, in the days after Musial's death, had brainstormed a list of adjectives to best describe Musial.

That list included the following: Modest. Sincere. Humble. Kind. Classy. Sustained excellence. Approachable. Gentlemanly. Untarnished.

Following Schwarze's remarks, the Musial family filtered out of the Basilica and into awaiting vehicles. As the processional made its way to Busch Stadium, onlookers stopped on the sidewalk to pay respect to the 22-year Cardinal who had made St. Louis his permanent home after retirement.

When the family reached the Stan Musial statue at the ballpark, they were greeted by hundreds of more fans. Many had red No. 6 flags in hand. Musial's family laid a wreath and some flowers at the base of the statue. Before they left for the burial service, the crowd began to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Inside the ballpark, a No. 6 logo was displayed alone on Busch Stadium's primary scoreboard. Projected on a nearby screen were four pictures of Musial, whose celebrated baseball career had ended back on Sept. 29, 1963, with a 2-for-3 day against the Reds.

For those who had never heard or didn't remember Harry Caray's radio call from Musial's final at-bat that day, Costas relived it as a close to his eulogy.

"Harry said: 'Take a look fans. Take a good long look. Remember the swing and the stance. We won't see his like again.'"

Costas paused, then added:

"Harry was right. We never have. And we never will."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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