Big crowds turn out for Stan Musial visitation


Big crowds turn out for Stan Musial visitation

ST. LOUIS (AP) Standing outside the Cathedral Basilica as thousands filed inside to pay their respects, Stan Musial's grandson was thankful.

``Just seeing all this,'' Brian Schwarze said, ``and I got to play catch with him.''

``I mean, he was my grandfather. But I really do believe I'm starting to understand somewhat what he meant to the whole community,'' he said.

Many visitors seemed to treat Thursday's six-hour public visitation as if it was Stan the Man's final game day, decked out in team attire and ignoring bitter cold for the chance to get one last glimpse.

In an open casket, Musial was clad in the red jacket he and other Cardinals Hall of Famers wore for special occasions, a harmonica in his pocket and a red tie dotted with tiny Cardinals.

The same tie that retired high school teacher Randy Pierce proudly pointed out he was wearing, too.

``My wife for my last birthday gave me a big photo of President Obama giving Stan the Presidential Medal of Freedom,'' Pierce said. ``It's signed by Stan, so I've got the important one.''

Musial, a three-time National League MVP, seven-time batting champion and 24-time All-Star, died Saturday after years of declining health. He was 92.

Fans turned out in droves to pay respects to a superstar who never acted the part, always making time for one more autograph, or to shake one more hand.

``Sometimes, it was like `All right, Grandpa, we've got to get going,''' Schwarze said. ``My mom would be yelling at him when she was a little kid like, `Time to go!' and he was like `Hold on, I've got some fans still.'''

Family, close friends and perhaps some of baseball's biggest names will be back at the cathedral for a funeral on Saturday. Thursday was for the fans.

A half-hour before the visitation, hundreds lined Lindell Boulevard leading to the steps of the cathedral. An hour into the six-hour visitation, a church spokeswoman said 1,400 people had filed through.

When a bell chimed once as the doors opened, 68-year-old Evelyn Bourisaw, dressed in a red coat, exclaimed, ``Time to play ball!''

Among the first to go in were Audrey Kissel, 86, and Erma Bergman, 88. The two were kindred spirits of Musial, not only of his generation but also former ballplayers. Kissel played second base and Bergman pitched in a women's professional league during World War II, popularized in the movie ``A League of Their Own.''

Both handed out personal baseball cards depicting them in uniforms that featured skirts and summarized achievements and listed nicknames - Kissel was known as ``Pigtails'' and Bergman as ``Bergie.''

``He was a very lovely person,'' Kissel said.

Don Raisin, who's worked with Cardinal team mascot Fredbird since 1985, said one of his prized possessions is a ball autographed by Musial, Enos Slaughter and Terry Moore, who played in the outfield together.

``It was always exciting when you knew he was going to be at the ballpark,'' Raisin said. ``It's not going to be the same on opening day.''

Rope lines steered mourners toward the casket in a corner of the church.

Myron Schumacher, 71, noted that he was born in 1941, the year Musial broke into the big leagues, and was at the original Busch Stadium in 1963 for Musial's final game.

``He was amazing,'' Schumacher said.

Retired car salesman Bill Sanders, 64, was like many fans, as taken with Musial's good-natured ways as his considerable baseball prowess. Sanders noted that not once in a 22-year career did Musial get tossed out of a game.

``All of his statistics were absolutely staggering, plus he was a true gentleman,'' Sanders said. ``He even liked the umpires.''

Certainly his baseball accomplishments were plentiful: a .331 lifetime average, 475 homers and 3,630 career hits (1,815 at home and an equal number on the road). He helped the Cardinals to three World Series championships in the 1940s and another after his playing days ended - he was general manager of the 1967 team that beat the Red Sox in seven games.

The GM job was short-lived, but Musial was a frequent figure at Busch Stadium, showing up for most opening days and many postseason games, sometimes playing the harmonica, always striking a pose of that unusual, corkscrew left-handed batting stance.

Though in ill health, Musial always perked up when he got to Busch Stadium. He smiled and waved during his last public appearance, a parade lap of the warning track before Game 4 of the NL championship series last fall.

``His fans always did give him energy,'' Schwarze said. ``He could turn it on.''

Even near death, the harmonica Musial learned to play while passing the time on long train trips during his career was another source of energy.

``He was playing the week before he passed - a lot better than I've ever played it,'' Schwarze said.

Did he still play the ``Wabash Cannonball?'' ``Yes, absolutely,'' Schwarze added. ``He always said he knew more songs but I think he knew about six songs on the harmonica and had about six jokes.''

``The No. 6 really goes through his whole life.''

Quick Links

Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings 

Quick Links

Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!