ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- There was a steady stream of visitors at the Cathedral Basilica Thursday in the Central West End, people from all over coming to pay their respects to Stan "The Man" Musial.
Just like at a Cardinals game, fans began lining up about an hour before the doors opened, here to say farewell to the greatest Cardinal who ever played the game.
Many of the fans also came dressed as if going to a Cardinals game, except for the heavy winter coats of course. But no one seemed to mind the weather.
They came to be part of history and to say goodbye to the man who perhaps best represented the history of the team.
A few politicians stopped by, including the governor who slipped in a side entrance, but this day was really for the fans. Some of them moved to tears by the finality of the occasion.
Police were ready for a large crowd, but after an initial burst of visitors, the line grew shorter. Perhaps people were fearful of the cold or limited parking or maybe they are just waiting for the work day to end.
The funeral for Stan Musial is Saturday and although it had been announced as private, Cardinals Spokesman Ron Waterman told us once the invited guests are here members of the public will be allowed inside on a first come first serve basis.
The funeral begins at 11:00 Saturday morning.
Bob Costas will be delivering the eulogy.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan will also be here along with St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson.
Hundreds of people are expected to file through the Cathedral Basilica Thursday night.
Stan Musial first arrived in St. Louis 72 years ago. He retired from baseball a half-century ago. Three different generations have known Musial in St. Louis.
The oldest among us remember Musial as a ballplayer. The youngest among us remember him as a beloved old man. We have known Stan Musial for most of his life and for most of ours.
The skinny jug-eared kid from Donora, PA arrived in St. Louis three months before Pearl Harbor. He retired two months before JFK was assassinated. To people over 55 who actually saw him play, Stan Musial was baseball in the middle of the American century, corkscrew batting stance and all.
After he retired, Musial was a tireless civic booster, a man about town with his wife, Lil, who looked a lot like movie star Lana Turner. He ran a restaurant. He gave time and money to charities. He promoted St. Louis. To a generation too young to have seen him play, Musial became Mister St. Louis.
And as the new century came along, yet another generation knew another Stan Musial. He was the septuagenarian then the octogenarian who was at every opening day, at every important Cardinal event, at every charitable function he could manage. He faded from national memory but became a mythic presence in St. Louis.
To each of the generations of Musial, he was something slightly different. But to all of them, he remained the embodiment of decency of a life well lived. He was the best in all of us.
Stan Musial spent 23 years as a ballplayer. He spent the half century after that as St. Louis.
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