Title: Stan Musial: An American Life
Author: George Vecsey
Biographies are a tricky art, particularly athlete biographies. The book tends a little too much towards the hero-worship side of the spectrum. But to be fair, Vecsey made an effort to dig up dirt on Musial. There simply isn't much. Vecsey never claims his subject was perfect and he doesn't sweep the less flattering stories under the rug. Nonetheless, the evidence is overwhelming: pretty much everybody who knew Stan Musial loved him. He was a committed family man, a gregarious restaurant owner, an idol to Polish-Americans, a devoted Catholic. A towering figure in the sport, Musial made a point of welcoming new rookies, even those on opposing teams, to the big leagues by name. Many of them never forgot that basic human courtesy in a world of untouchable superstars. It's worth noting that he earned his nickname Stan the Man from the fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Cardinals' arch-rivals. Musial, who played his entire career in St. Louis and always made the most of Ebbets Field's hitter friendly dimensions, was elected to the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame in 1990. Even the enemy loved him.
The warmth of the book comes from Vecsey's chosen method of research: personal interviews of those who knew the Man, drawing upon the yarn-spinning baseball culture I find so irresistibly charming. There's a lot of waiting in baseball: waiting in the dugout, the bullpen, the clubhouse, the hotel, the airport, etc. Plenty of time to chat. As I watch games at our local minor league park, I want to believe the witty, shoot-the-shit atmosphere portrayed in Bull Durham is still real in 2018. Have iPhones killed it the way they have undermined the art of conversation in the rest of society? Now, an awful lot of that shit would be flying around in Spanish. Is there intercultural exchange or is the typical baseball team lingually segregated? I fear it is.
Overall, it's a lovely book. I'll admit to not knowing much about Musial myself in the beginning but by the end, I loved him, too. I can't say it offers much for the non-baseball fan but for those who love the game and enjoy its history, it's a must-read.