Baseball: Derek Jeter and Stan Musial

My last Saturday before I head back to Bali for a two-week break. It would be an understatement to say that I want to go home, so I’m filling the days with memories of the past and glimpses of the future.

Today, I spent five hours watching baseball on ESPN. The game to watch today was the Yankee’s game against Baltimore. For some reason, the Yankees are the only team that shows up on ESPN here in Indonesia. But, that’s OK as I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the Yankees since I was a boy and was fortunate enough to watch Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford. Derek Jeter broke the Yankee all time hit record today, and it was exciting to watch the fan and team response.

During my youth, my father was mostly absent as he usually worked double shifts, but my fondest memories are of the times that he took me to ballgames on Sundays. Usually, we went to Wrigley Field in Chicago to see the Cubs play the St. Louis Cardinals – my father’s favorite team – and mine as well. Back in those days, the Cubs had the great Ernie Banks and the Cardinals had the great Stan Musial on the 1958 rosters.
Musial
Stan the Man was a hero of mine; first because he was a favorite of my father, but also because I loved the way he would stroll up to the plate, get into his famous crouch and just zing the ball into the outfield. But, besides his tremendous ability as a hitter, he was one of the classiest ballplayers that I had the good fortune to meet.

It was definitely a different time than today. Back then; the average ballplayer would have an off-season job as something like a salesman. Stan the Man made $100,000 in 1958, but a young player like Curt Flood only made $5,000 per season. Back in those days, you could wait outside the locker rooms in Wrigley Field for the players to come out so that you could ask for autographs.

Back in 1958 or 1959, I waited one Sunday with my father for the Cardinals to come out of the visitor’s locker room. After getting a few autographs from younger players who were always happy to sign autographs, we spotted Stan in a phone booth probably calling the family. We waited with a crowd of fans until he was done with his call. When he came out, he signed autographs for dozens of fans until he begged off. As he was leaving my father called out, how about one more Stan for my boy? With that, Stan turned around, asked what my name was and took our program and signed it. That was one of those moments in life that affect you; it defined for me, the qualities of a gentleman.

800px-Derek_Jeter_-_2007-05-18I don’t know Derek Jeter – I’ve never met him, never seen him play a game in person, but he seems to have that quality that Stan the Man did. Congratulations on your record, Derek. It’s a fine thing to see a class act succeed.

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~ by drbrucepk on September 13, 2009.

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