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Who will be the Cardinals' next living legend?Posted Thursday, January 24, 2013, at 7:56 AM
As the St. Louis Cardinals lay to rest their greatest franchise player, Stan "the Man" Musial, an unfortunate "vacancy" is left within the organization.
No one will ever be able to replace Musial. From his amazing numbers to his sense of humor to the kind, gentle man who always had time for a fan--at any age, there will not be another Stan Musial.
There's a reason they call them legends.
A legend is more than a great baseball player. Many players have put up the numbers.
To be a true legend, you have to "be" the game. It's not about home runs and RBI or wins and strikeouts. It's about character, class, signing autographs, taking pictures with children and giving back to your community.
Sure, the numbers matter, but they're only a part of the equation.
Many of the most beloved Cardinals over the years weren't loved for their numbers, but for themselves. Guys like Stubby Clapp, Steve Kline and Skip Schumaker weren't loved by the fans for breaking records. They were loved because they were good people who played hard and always had time for their fans.
Musial's condition had been deteriorating for years now, but the fact that he was still able to ride out and wave to fans meant so much to this organization.
With him gone, who will be the fans' new living legend in St. Louis? All of the following former players and managers were legends in their own right, but which one is ready step out of the shadows?
While many in St. Louis had a love-hate relationship with Tony LaRussa, what he was able to do for the Cardinals is forever ingrained in history.
With two World Series rings, countless playoff appearances and fielding a competitive team for almost his entire contract, LaRussa should be a fan favorite.
With that being said, it's doubtful that LaRussa will ever become that guy. A legend in his own right, LaRussa has made it clear his career isn't over. While he says he doesn't intend to manage again, even working in the front office of another team would make it different for him to be "the" Cardinal.
That could still change some day.
All Cardinals fans love to reflect on the days of Whitey-ball.
It was that period when stolen bases outnumbered home runs and small ball was how the Cardinals won championships.
The man who stood at the helm during that era, Whitey Herzog, still visits the stadium, flat-top fully intact, and will always be a fan favorite.
Despite his era still being hallowed as the one the Cardinals should work to mimic, Herzog isn't going to be the face of the organization. He still draws the big cheers when he comes out in the red jacket reserved for Cardinals Hall of Famers, but most likely this role will be filled by a former player.
"Call me Red, kid."
Those were the first words the former manager and player ever said to me.
This year marks the 50th year since he took to the field as a player, but that doesn't mean you can't still see Red play baseball.
Before home games, Red suits up in full uniform, complete with stirrup socks and cleats, and takes to the field for batting practice. All of the young men treat him with respect and clearly value what he has to say.
Whether it's a tip or a quick joke, when Red talks, you listen.
While he won't be "the" living legend, he has long been one of the most underappreciated within the organization.
There aren't many pitchers left who can strike fear into the heart of any opponent. Bob Gibson was one of those guys.
The look in his eyes meant business when he was on the mound, and his record proves it. The Cardinals rode Gibson to two World Championships and one World Series loss in a five-year span.
A strong case can be made for Gibson. He's a kind man with a good sense of humor, a gorgeous autograph (another good point for Red, as well) and monster hands, and he used to be a Harlem Globetrotter.
What more could you ask for?
When Lou takes to the field in his red jacket, it would be easy to mistake the "Lou" cheers for "boos," but no one in the stadium boos Lou Brock.
From the moment he walks in the door, he has a smile on his face. The people are glad to see him, but most of all, he's glad to see them, too.
It only takes a moment to tell that Lou's smile and handshake is completely genuine. It's not a show or a formality.
Brock is both the player and the man. He's exactly the kind of man fans can latch on to--and should.
He's a true Hall of Famer by every definition.
When Ozzie Smith came to St. Louis, he was a hero and fan favorite from the start.
He was an inspirational player whose cartwheels and defensive prowess made countless young men (myself included) long to be shortstops. The Wizard, as he came to be known, showed every team in baseball what they should be getting out of the position.
When he retired in 1996 after a dispute with then-incoming manager Tony LaRussa, Smith all but vanished from the organization. While he came out on Opening Day and during the postseason appearances, he hasn't been a true presence in quite some time.
Now that LaRussa has retired, it's reasonable to expect to see more of Smith in the years to come. That will be a good thing for players and fans alike.
Could the Wizard be that guy who brightens every face in Busch Stadium for the future? No doubt.
No, there will never be another Stan Musial. There shouldn't be. But, a franchise as packed with Hall of Famers as the Cardinals certainly has plenty of candidates for runner-up.
Corey Noles of The Daily Statesman is a baseball columnist whose work is featured on KSDK.com and Semoball. He also serves as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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