Jan 21, 2013 (The Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a reprint of an article that was originally published March 8, 2006.
- -- -
As I turned the corner inside the dimly, but fashionably, lit office building, I spied him. There he was, at the other end of the hall. Not being one much affected by celebrities, I was surprised at my own reaction to seeing him.
My eyes widened and my pulse raced a little. It was him. I had seen him many times, of course, but never like this: It was Stan the Man. Stan Musial, the legend. Mr. Cardinal. Mr. Baseball.
How I came to be at the opposite end of a hallway from the greatest baseball player of all time is interesting -- well, at least I think it's interesting. That I was there wasn't as impressive as the fact that he was there. He was there to do something for a friend of mine.
And his graciousness and generosity certainly has not gone unnoticed. I recently wrote about that friend, Lloyd Dunne. Lloyd is a former area football coach who's being inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame later this spring.
Lloyd's also fighting a battle against emphysema. Sadly and slowly, the emphysema is winning. Shortly after my column about Lloyd was published, I was visiting him and his wife Judy at their home in Collinsville. We sat around the kitchen table and talked about this and that -- as friends do.
Lloyd asked if, in my position as a sports scribe, I ever saw Stan Musial at Busch Stadium. My reply was that I had seen him a few times, but not often.
When I asked why, Lloyd said he still had the first baseball glove he ever owned -- a vintage "Stan Musial" model glove. Lloyd grew up in Ohio and was not particularly a Cardinal fan as a kid. But he said he'd always wished he had been able to get Musial's real autograph on the glove.
Now, Lloyd's like me in at least one respect -- he picks his heroes very selectively. He's not one to easily swoon about someone who's supposedly famous.
But Stan Musial is definitely someone Lloyd admires -- just like most other baseball fans who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, baseball's golden era.
And now I know why. -- Without Lloyd's knowledge, Judy got the glove for me. I had an idea. I'd heard commercials for a company that sells Stan Musial-autographed items. I thought I'd contact them and see how much it would cost to have the glove signed.
So I clipped a copy of my earlier stories about Lloyd and sent a cover letter, stating I'd happily pay whatever Stan was getting for a signed glove these days. A week later, a company representative phoned me. The voice on the other end of the line said Mr. Musial would be happy to sign the glove for my ailing friend.
An autograph from Stan Musial may not seem like much to some folks. But these days, everything is a collectible and professional athletes you've never heard of charge outlandish fees for their signature.
But something signed by Musial commands more -- as it should.Stan the Man is the last of a vanishing breed. DiMaggio, Williams and Mantle -- they're all gone.
But Stan Musial is still here. He played from 1941 through 1963 and during, that time established himself as one of the greatest -- many would say THE greatest -- hitter of all time.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. We had set up a time for me to meet Mr. Musial so he could autograph Lloyd's glove.
It was quite clandestine. I was told to go to a certain office building at a certain time, ring the bell outside the door and wait. I was headed toward that door when I spied him entering the offices.
Once inside, I was greeted politely by a receptionist After explaining the situation, I heard a familiar voice coming from an adjacent room.
It was him. The Man.
I was ushered in, introduced to Stan and I handed the glove to him. He said he hoped my friend liked the surprise and he wished him -- and me -- well.
It was short, but oh, so sweet In these days of overpaid, spoiled, whining athletes, my short visit with an 86-year-old legend named Stan Musial will be something I will always treasure. He's as much the humble gentleman as I have heard. And maybe that's why he's as popular as ever with his fans.
Lloyd loved the newly autographed glove. He was surprised and he was touched. His eyes moistened and he became a little giddy when I handed it to him.
For those who know Lloyd Dunne, it's difficult to imagine him getting giddy about anything, but that was the affect an autograph from Stan Musial had on him.
And The Man didn't charge me a dime. -- Lloyd Dunne passed away in November of 2008. The longtime Collinsville and Edwardsville football coach left us with plenty of great memories. And he had a great memory himself his last two years with us -- thanks to Stan the Man.
___ (c)2013 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.) Visit The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.) at
www.thetelegraph.com Distributed by MCT Information Services