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Monday, January 21, 2013

Stan Musial

"When a pitcher is throwing a spitball, don't worry and don't complain, just hit the dry side like I do."

— Stan Musial
American Baseball Player
1920 - 2013

When life throws you a spitball, don't complain.  Find a way to hit a home run.  

In the small town in central Illinois where I grew up, people were either St. Louis Cardinal fans or Chicago Cub fans.  I, for some unknown reason, chose the Cardinals and one my heroes was Stan the Man Musial.  Only after I became a Cardinal fan did my father tell me that he was also a Cardinal fan.  In the course of raising and supporting a family, he did not have time for baseball.  My interest revitalized his interest.

Like Musial and my father, I was left-handed.  I still remember vividly playing one of my first games of baseball.  We did not have enough players, so batters could only hit to certain fields.  Right-hand batters could only hit to left field and left-hand hitters could only hit to right field.  When I came up to bat, they asked if I was a lefty or a righty.  I said a lefty.  The players all shifted to the right side of the diamond.  I stepped into the batter's box as a right-hand hitter.  Everyone was upset because they had to shift back to the left side of the field.  I learned that day that while I throw with my left hand I batted right-handed.

Baseball was my sport of choice until I discovered basketball and volleyball.  I dreamed of playing for the St. Louis Cardinals.  In Little League, I played the outfield and was a good defensive player.  One of my favorite moments was making a diving catch.  Unlike my father and Stan Musial, I was not a strong hitter.  Both my father and Musial could hit home runs.  When I did get a hit, it was usually a single.  My last season in Little League was spent at first base.  I had wanted to pitch but the adults made a rule that 12 years olds could not pitch that year.

So what does this all have to do with creativity and the arts.  First, being a great baseball player is more about art than science.  A great player has to practice the fundamentals daily  much like artists and writers.  Creative leaders are often on the receiving end of a spitball.  How we handle the spitballs that are thrown our way says a lot about who we are.  Do we make the best of what life gives us or do we grumble and complain?

Who are your childhood heroes?  Who did you aspire to be like?  Our heroes say a lot about us — who we are and who we want to become.  Our heroes help create our values.

Creative Practice
Select a childhood hero and write a poem or short story that involves your hero.  Paint your hero into a picture.  Tell your friends what your childhood hero meant to you.  Identify the lessons that your hero taught you.  Read a biography or autobiography of hero.

Biography of Stan Musial
Stanislaw Franciszek Musial was born in Donora, PA on November 21, 1920.  He died this past Saturday, January 19, 2013 at the age of 92.  He signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1938 and made his major league debut on September 17, 1941.  In Musial's first full season in 1942, the Cardinals won the World Series.  They repeated as World Series champions in 1944 and 1946.  He missed the 1945 season because he was serving in the U.S. Navy.

Stan the Man Musial won seven National League batting titles and was named the Most Valuable Player three times.  He hit 475 home runs in his career that lasted until September 29, 1963.  His lifetime batting average was .331. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 and considered to be one of the greatest hitter in baseball.

Musial was married to Lillian Labash for almost 72 years.  They had four children, 11 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

Watch this brief video of Stan Musial.

I wrote this story-poem a few years ago and I share it now in memory of Stan Musial.

Family Dreams

I reach inside my pocket
and find a tattered picture
from my childhood. My
mother is holding me in
her arms. My father has
his arm around my mother
and is looking down at me
with a big grin on his face.
I look like I had been crying —
my eyes are puffy, my cheeks
tear-stained. I found this
picture in my mother’s dresser
drawer last week. My younger
sister and I were going through
mom’s belongings — sorting
out what we wanted to keep
and what we would throw
away. My mother died one
day short of her eighty-fifth
birthday, ten years after my
father shot himself. He could
not accept the fact that he had
cancer and did not want to
live through the pain of dying.
So he shot himself with an old
army revolver that he kept
hidden in the closet. The revolver
was a souvenir from his days
in World War II. He had
landed at the beaches of Normandy
and somehow dodged the German
bullets. Mom and dad did not meet
until after he had returned from
the front with his left leg missing.
He had stepped on a mine and
was lucky to be alive. My mother
was a nurse in the hospital
where my father was recuperating.
She said that it was love at first
sight. She had found her
soulmate. For him, love
took awhile to bloom. He
was so angry that he had
lost a leg that he could think
of nothing else. He was
angry at his father who did
not stop him from volunteering
to fight. He was angry at
the Germans who started
the bloody war. He was
angry at the officer who sent
him out on patrol. He was
angry at the French for their
weaknesses. Mom was the healing
salve that helped dad get over
his pain. She healed his heart
and patched up pieces of his
soul. When he proposed, she
said yes without hesitation.
They were married for fifty
years. He worked as an
accountant for a large construction
company. Mom worked at
the local hospital, patching
up the sick. I came along
about three years after they
were married. Mom often
told me that I was the apple
of my father’s eye. My father
had been fitted with a wooden
leg and after work he would
invite me out into the backyard
to play catch. He loved
baseball and before the war
had dreamed of playing
professionally for the St. Louis
Cardinals. He transferred his
dreams to me. I practiced day
and night and took up the mantle
of his hopes. I saw myself as
a pitcher with a powerful
fastball. A car accident my senior
year put an end to my career and
caused a riff between my father
and me. His dream had died
a second time. We fought a lot
in those years. Nothing I did
seemed to please him. My hair
was too long. My grades not good
enough. When I dropped out
of college, he threw me out
of the house. Called me a bum
and said that I would never
amount to anything. Mom was
the one who kept us from tearing
each other apart limb by limb.
She would calm him down and
scold him for getting so upset.
Said it wasn’t good for his blood
pressure. And she put the screws
to me too. Telling me I shouldn’t
treat my father that way. He
deserved better. He had given
his life for his country and his
family. She said I should show him
some respect. And not pick
a fight with him. Something
in the way she said it made
me feel ashamed. She would
take the anger right out of me.
I finally did finish my degree
in engineering and got a decent
job. My mother and father
were so proud when I received
my diploma. A few years later
I married my high school
sweetheart. It wasn’t until
Timmy was born that the riff
between my father and me
finally healed for good. He
loved my son probably as much
as he love me. When Timmy
was old enough, my dad would
take him outside to play catch.
His dream of a baseball player
in the family was reborn in my
son. I cautioned him not to get
disappointed again. Dreams
have a way of not working out
the way you imagine them. But
he didn’t listen. He talked of
Timmy playing for the Cardinals.
And he filled Timmy with stories
of heroic exploits by former stars.
He created a pantheon of heroes
in the kid’s mind. And Timmy
was a natural. Better than I ever
was. I tried to prevent my son
from getting caught up in his
grandfather’s dream. But he
didn’t listen. Reminded me
of myself in that regard. My
father never got to see Timmy
play in the majors. The cancer
scorched his flesh and drove
him to suicide. Five years
later Timmy played in his first
major league game. He started
at second base for the Chicago
Cubs. I am sure Dad was
watching from heaven and
telling the angels that Timmy
was his grandson. Strange how
life turns out sometimes. I stuff
the picture back in my pocket.

— Harley King
© 2008 by Harley King