St. Louis Cardinal baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial tips his hat to the crowd before he throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of 2006 World Series in St Louis. Musial, a Catholic, died Jan. 19 at age 92. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama and over the years was supportive of charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
St. Louis Cardinal baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial tips his hat to the crowd before he throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of 2006 World Series in St Louis. Musial, a Catholic, died Jan. 19 at age 92. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama and over the years was supportive of charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
A funeral Mass Jan. 26 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis for Stan Musial - the baseball Hall of Famer remembered as "a true American hero" - brought comfort to those mourning the loss and a call for others to emulate his life of kindness to all.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, a native of St. Louis and former auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese, was a concelebrant of the Mass that was celebrated by St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tenn., who was pastor of Musial's parish, Annunziata in Ladue, from 2005 to 2009, gave the homily.

Bishop Stika grew up in a south St. Louis parish, Epiphany and told of the "special connection that existed between 'Stan the Man' and the people of St. Louis and the rest of the country."

Musial played 22 years for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, setting dozens of hitting records along the way.

Musial's abilities stood out, but so did his humility and his relationship with his wife of nearly 72 years, Lillian, who died last year, and his role as a father and grandfather, Bishop Stika said. A friend to thousands of people throughout the world, he was a "great man of faith" who came to the ballpark not after staying out late on Saturday nights but after going to church.

Bishop Stika told of how, in his later years, Musial would escort his wife, who used a wheelchair at the time, to the car after Mass, and fellow parishioners would help him load the chair in his trunk. They also knew that Musial kept souvenirs of his playing career in that trunk and would dole them out as gifts.

"I have three or four myself," the bishop said with a chuckle.

He urged people, with that context, to look at their lives and faith and ascertain whether they too can respond to God's challenge to make a difference in others' lives.

Musial's grandson, Andrew Edmonds, who spoke during remarks of remembrance, said his family will remember his grandfather, who they called "Papo," for the happiness and smiles he brought to others. "He was the same loving, caring patriarch that a lot of families share," Edmonds said, noting that Musial brought breakfast from McDonalds to them every weekend for more than a decade.

Edmonds told of a man at the wake held in the cathedral basilica Jan. 24, with tears streaming down his face, who said that "your grandpa's best attribute was that he made 'nobodies' feel like 'somebodies.'"

Musial's kindness to strangers day in and day out is part of his legacy that is most enduring, "and I challenge every one listening to follow Stan's example," Edmonds added.

Broadcaster Bob Costas told of how Musial's lifetime of "spirits lifted and acts of kindness large and small" by a "thoroughly decent human being" would fail to attract Hollywood producers but, combined with his accessibility, was why he was seen as a friend and neighbor by all in St. Louis.

His graciousness and buoyant personality is "the perfect embodiment of baseball," he said. "It's more important to be appreciated than glorified, respected than celebrated."

Costas told of how Musial played a role in integrating baseball, not by being an activist but by simple gestures such as walking up to black players in the clubhouse before an all-star game, when white players wouldn't approach them, and asking to be dealt into their card game.

"Henry Aaron said, 'I didn't just like Stan Musial, I wanted to be like him,'" Costas said. Aaron was a star player for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves.

Musial's son-in-law Martin Schwarze told of Stan the Man's love of his Catholic faith, his country, his fans and his family. Schwarze said former Cardinals' player and manager Joe Torre summed it up best: "He was a Hall of Famer in the game of baseball but also a Hall of Famer in the game of life."

After the Mass, Cardinal Dolan said Musial "was proud of his Catholic faith," which was "part of his DNA." At Communion, Musial would show a deep concentration and an awe and reverence in his gaze, leading Cardinal Dolan to wonder what opposing pitchers may have felt when they saw a similar locked-in look when he was at bat.

In attendance were many sports figures and others: Baseball Hall of Famers, including Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog, Lou Brock, Bruce Sutter; former St. Louis Cardinals' players and coaches such as Jim Edmonds, Joe Torre, Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa; and political figures such as St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

An estimated 1,300 attended the funeral Mass, and 3,633 - just three more than the number of hits Musial had in his career - attended the visitation earlier at the cathedral basilica.