David Brown

He's still the Man: Cards' Stan Musial to receive Medal of Freedom

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Stan Musial is flat-out awesome. It was just announced that he'll be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom after serving his country in World War II and by being one of Major League Baseball's top ambassadors for nearly 70 years.

But I like to think the Flat Stanley program run by the St. Louis Cardinals helped influence the White House to select Stan "The Man" as one of 15 Medal of Freedom recipients.

Back in May, the Cardinals began encouraging fans to print out the cartoon image of Musial seen above, take a self portrait with "Flat Stan the Man" and post it to the team's website. They created some cool galleries with it. The campaign also engaged fans via Twitter and Facebook.

The original concept behind Flat Stanleys was to give students, often as pen pals, a mutual friend about whom to write as they exchanged correspondence. Stan Musial was a natural choice for this and not only because of his convenient first name. Not only is he the best player in team history (for now), he's kind of everyone's buddy among Cardinals fans. An extremely approachable icon.

If nothing else, Musial's adoring public got a chance to express their affection for a Hall of Fame ballplayer and all-around good guy.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said that Musial, who turns 90 on Sunday, has this coming:

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"It's so well-deserved," [La Russa said.] "He's such an amazing, remarkable man, professional and everything that it's very exciting and it's well-deserved."

As America's highest civilian honor, the medal is given to Americans who make "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States or to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Musial had a baseball career that is difficult to equal. He's one of the 10 or 15 greatest hitters of all time — fourth in career hits with 3,630, second in total bases and sixth in times on base. He finished with a .331 batting average, 475 homers and only 696 strikeouts over 12,712 plate appearances. He missed the 1945 season because of the war.

Beyond his skills on the field, stories abound of Musial's friendliness and good nature. He was an ordinary Joe with an extraordinary gift and operated, apparently, without a bloated ego.

Boston Celtics' Hall of Famer Bill Russell is another sports personality so honored with a medal. Industrialist Warren Buffett, former President George H.W. Bush and violin virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma also will be presented medals by President Obama. Date of ceremony to come.

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