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Stan the Man Musial passes

When I first started performing at The Clearwater Beach Hilton, back in 1976, the hotel was owned by Stan Musial. I worked for Stan for several years, until he sold the hotel. It was then I fully understood his nickname, “Stan the Man”. He wasn’t “Stan the Man” solely because he was a baseball great. He was “The Man” off the field, as well. He loved his fans and no matter what he was doing, or who he was with, when a fan approached him for an autograph or a photo, they were greeted with an enthusiastic smile and made to feel very comfortable with “The Man”. There was always a supply of Stan’s 8×10 glossy photos maintained at the front desk and they were given to anyone who wanted an autographed photo. I used to watch him having dinner, in the Hilton dining room, with people lined up at his table to get their photo signed. He would greet them with the happiest smile, and a big “Whadda ya say”.

One afternoon I went out to the Hilton’s beachside Tiki Bar and Stan was there with some friends. There were two boys, around 6 or 7 years old, playing in the grassy area next to the pool. Stan walked over and began to play toss with them. He would throw some grounders and little lob fly balls to them. He asked the boys where their parents were and the boys took Stan to meet Mom and Dad. Well, Dad was agape when Stan said, “Would the boys like an autographed baseball?” Stan went to his office, which was on the second floor, a good distance from the Tiki bar, and came back with two baseballs which he signed, one for each of the young lads. That is just the kind of man he was.

Stan loved to laugh. He like hearing jokes and loved to tell them. He was funny because when he would tell a joke he would get so tickled before he got to the punch line that he would be laughing so hard he would have great difficulty in getting it out. One morning Stan called my room and asked me if I had any plans for lunch, and if not, could I meet him in the dining room at noon. Well, I didn’t know if I was in trouble or what this meeting could be about, but of course I said, “I’ll be there”. When I got to the dining room I went to Stan’s table and he introduced me to his friend, George. George was trying to market a device that measured your hand squeezing strength. It was a gadget you squeezed and a thermometer type of gauge would pop up showing the PSI of your squeeze. Well, we passed the device around the table and then Stan wanted to hear some jokes. I would tell one and that would remind Stan of one, and so it went. Our food arrived and I casually looked at Stan’s friend, and asked, “So, what kind of business are you in, George?” Stan almost choked on his sandwich and when he recovered from the near choke and stopped laughing, he told me who George was. It was George Blanda. I felt like an idiot. I had watched the great George Blanda for years, but hadn’t really seen him without his helmet. He and Stan both got a great laugh out of that little faux pas.

There are many more stories and anecdotes I could tell, but suffice it to say, Stan Musial was a great person, a great man, one of a kind, and truly, “Stan the Man”. I am so fortunate to have had that experience. RIP, Stan.

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