Those are the first two things I thought of when I heard about Stan Musial‘s passing this evening. Being from the Midwest, I respected his relationship with the Cardinals organization and how popular of a team he made the Cardinals, even though they weren’t flashy or in a large market.

Musial’s strength was hitting, where he was a seven-time National League batting champion and led the Cardinals to three World Series titles. Musial played all of his 22 seasons in St. Louis and continued to have a close relationship with the team after his career was over—including a stint as GM when the Cardinals won another World Series in 1967.

Musial was always appreciated by Cardinals fans but I don’t think the modern fans truly understood how special he was until their most recent superstar, Albert Pujols, left for a larger market and more money. Players as loyal as Musial are a rare breed.  While most tributes over the next few days will be focusing on what a great player Musial was, I believe what made him so special was the type of person he was.

Fans from St. Louis have talked about how revered Musial was and that he was what an athlete should be. Musial always acted in a way that showed he was grateful for the opportunity to play baseball. Unfortunately more often than not, there are athletes who expect people to cater to their every need. I personally have encountered some of these athletes and it’s sad that they don’t realize how lucky they truly are.

Musial realized that.  He stood for a time that was great for baseball and was scandal-free. As more time passes, fans will start to forget about the players of the past and what a mark they left on baseball. Musial owned several records when he retired but I believe that he only cared about contributing to the Cardinals success.

Baseball lost a giant of a man today who represented all the good things about playing baseball and understood the responsibility of being a star athlete.

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