Farewell to a Major League legend and faithful parishioner

Bishop Stika delivers homily at funeral Mass for friend and baseball hero Stan Musial


A CARDINAL MOMENT Future Diocese of Knoxville Bishop Richard F. Stika is shown with St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame player Stan Musial and Mr. Musial’s wife, Lillian, in August 1999. Courtesy of Bishop Richard F. Stika

A funeral Mass for baseball legend Stan Musial was held Jan. 26 in St. Louis, where the Hall of Fame player spent his career. Bishop Richard F. Stika, a longtime Musial family friend and priest, delivered the homily.

Mr. Musial died Saturday, Jan. 19, at his home in Ladue, Mo., surrounded by his family. He was 92. The St. Louis Cardinal slugger and lifelong Catholic, known far and wide as “Stan the Man,” had been in declining health for several years. Mr. Musial was a parishioner of the Church of the Annunziata in Ladue, a St. Louis suburb, when the future Bishop Stika served as pastor there. A St. Louis native, the bishop knew of Mr. Musial from an early age.
“I’ve probably been aware of Stan since I was 6 or 7 years of age,” Bishop Stika said. “Everybody in St. Louis—everybody, whether you liked baseball or not—knew Stan the Man.”

During his priesthood in St. Louis, then–Monsignor Stika got to know Mr. Musial personally.

“I met him over the last 20 years,” Bishop Stika said. “I got to know him because of my position working with the diocese, and in the last four years in a very special way, I was his pastor, so I was privileged to get to know him. I got to go over to his house with Lil [Mrs. Musial] and Stan and talk baseball, and he would just tell me stories.”

Mr. Musial played his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals from 1941 to 1963, missing the 1945 season to serve with the U.S. Navy. Batting from an unusual stance that began with his back facing the pitcher, he finished with a career batting average of .331 with 3,630 hits and 475 home runs. He was selected to 24 All-Star Games, including years when two All-Star Games were held.

He remains the Cardinals’ record-holder in numerous offensive statistical categories. Mr. Musial was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 on the first ballot. His No. 6 jersey was the first ever retired by the Cardinals. A statue of Mr. Musial outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis is inscribed, “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”

“He always had a quick smile, a good heart, and he was generous,” Bishop Stika said. “He knew everyone from the pope to the president. He was friends with President Kennedy and the Kennedy family and with Lyndon Johnson. He treated everybody the same way, with kindness.”

In 2011 Mr. Musial received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Mr. Musial met his future wife, Lillian, when he was a teenager in his native town of Donora, Pa. Mrs. Musial died in 2012 and Bishop Stika presided at her funeral Mass. The couple was married a few weeks shy of 72 years.

Bishop Stika was the homilist at Mr. Musial’s funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson presided. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and a longtime friend of the Musials, also spoke at the funeral Mass. A public visitation was held Jan. 24 at the cathedral.

Mr. Musial always carried a harmonica, Bishop Stika said.

“One of the great moments in my life was when I turned 40 and I was saying Mass at my parish where I eventually became pastor, and somebody tapped me on the back as I was leaving,” the bishop said. “It was Stan, and he played me ‘Happy Birthday’ on his harmonica, and Lil sang to me, so my brothers were jealous,” he said.

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