Saying a final goodbye to Earl Weaver, Stan Musial
The nation of baseball lost two members of its royalty last weekend -- the Earl of Baltimore and Stan the Man.
Earl Weaver and Stan Musial both passed away Saturday. They were beloved not just by fans in Baltimore and St. Louis, their respective cities, but by baseball fans everywhere.
Their styles could not have been more different -- Weaver, the diminutive yet demonstrative Orioles manager whom fans loved to watch argue with umpires, and Musial, the quiet, classy Cardinals outfielder who may not have argued with anyone in his life.
They made their mark in different ways, yet their lives intertwined.
Weaver was born Aug. 14, 1930, in St. Louis -- a baseball hotbed with both the Cardinals and Browns in town.
Weaver's father ran a dry cleaning business, and players from both the Cardinals and the Browns were his customers. So by the time Musial broke into the majors with the Cardinals in 1941, he may well have been bringing his clothes to Weaver's dry cleaning store and run into an 11-year-old Earl Weaver -- who loved baseball.
Weaver was a high school second baseman who, according to various stories, was offered contracts by both the Cardinals and the Browns. He chose the Cardinals in 1948 but never was able to crack the major league roster. He played in the Illinois State League and then for legendary Cardinals instructor and minor league manager George Kissell in the Carolina League and Western League until 1953.
He made the historic decision in 1956 that his future in baseball may be in the dugout. In 1957, he joined the Baltimore Orioles organization -- ironically, the former St. Louis Browns, just four years removed from Weaver's hometown -- and would work his way through the system until he replaced Hank Bauer in Baltimore in 1968.
It was in Baltimore where Weaver carved out his Hall of Fame legacy, managing the Orioles to four American League pennants and one World Series championship.
Musial's legacy is in St. Louis. But a turning point in his Hall of Fame career may have happened not far from where Weaver's statue stands.
Musial entered the U.S. Navy in 1945 after four seasons with the Cardinals. He had established himself as a top hitter, winning the National League batting title with a .357 average and the National League MVP award in 1943 and hitting .347 in 1944. But he had never hit more than 13 home runs.
Musial said he found his power at Bainbridge Naval Training Station in Port Deposit, Md., playing with the station's baseball team. He changed his stance to pull the ball more so he could entertain servicemen with power shots. He would go on to hit 475 career home runs and retire in 1963 with a career batting average of .331.
Earl Weaver and Stan Musial -- shared, glorious baseball lives.