02/15/11 4:00 PM EST
Musial's big day celebrated in St. Louis
By Bill Hester / Special to MLB.com
A dropped pin could have been heard as the group waited for the entrance of Musial. And then followed the cheers for the beloved superstar who was a first ballot Hall of Famer.
"Stan looked so great walking out in his red jacket," Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said. "It was such a fun day to be able to share it with the employees, watching the ceremony together.
"I can tell you that nobody is more deserving than Stan. He represents not only the team but also the city and the region. He lived his life as a role model for everybody. He has all of the qualities that you look for in a man. He is humble, generous, funny, charitable."
Not to mention one of the best players of all time. Musial, who played in 24 All-Star games and was a three-time Most Valuable Player, was the eighth baseball player to be given the award, which is the nation's highest civilian honor. The others were: Joe Dimaggio (1977), Jackie Robinson (1984), Ted Williams (1991), Roberto Clemente (2003), Hank Aaron (2005), Frank Robinson (2005) and Buck O'Neil (2006).
Musial and Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell were the two athletes among the 15 recipients of the award this year.
It was a special day for all of St. Louis but especially for Mike Bertani, who is the Stadium Operations Director and has worked with the Cardinals for 54 years.
"I started working in 1957, so I was around for his final seven years as a player," Bertani said. "I remember everyone coming out of their offices and watching him whenever he was at bat. It was just amazing to watch him take that outside pitch and glide the ball into left field.
"And he is as good a man as he was a player. I never heard a negative thought come from him. He was just a very humble and super man. I had him sign a plaque for me one time and I was so honored when he signed it, 'Your Friend, Stan Musial.' But really I think he considers all Cardinal fans as his friends. He is certainly deserving of this award."
Dick Zitzmann, the vice president of Stan the Man Inc., has worked with and been a friend of Musial's for over 20 years.
"Today is one of the best days I have ever had," Zitzmann said. "I am just so excited for Stan. Everyone in St. Louis adores him, but I think that something like this is long overdue when it comes to the national level. I deal with a lot of Hall of Famers in my business and they all hold Stan with the highest regards and I think that says a lot about him. I have always said that Stan loves his fans as much as the fans love him."
And there was a lot of love for "Stan the Man" on the day after Valentine's Day at Busch Stadium.
Bill Hester is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.