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Stan Musial remembered during funeral Mass

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Stan Musial remembered during funeral Mass

ST. LOUIS (AP) Stan Musial was remembered during a funeral and memorial outside Busch Stadium on Saturday as a Hall of Famer and a St. Louis icon embraced by generations of fans who never had the privilege of watching him play.

Broadcaster Bob Costas, his voice cracking with emotion at times, pointed out during a two-hour Mass that in 92 years of life, Stan the Man never let anyone down.

Costas noted that even though Musial, who died Jan. 19, was a three-time NL MVP and seven-time batting champion, the pride of Donora, Pa., lacked a singular achievement. Joe DiMaggio had a 56-game hitting streak, Ted Williams was the last major leaguer to hit .400, and Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle soared to stardom in the New York spotlight. Musial didn't quite reach the 500-homer club - he finished with 475 - and played in his final World Series in 1946, ``wouldn't you know it, the year before they started televising the Fall Classic!''

``What was the hook with Stan Musial other than the distinctive stance and the role of one of baseball's best hitters?'' Costas said. ``It seems that all Stan had going for him was more than two decades of sustained excellence as a ballplayer and more than nine decades as a thoroughly decent human being.

``Where is the single person to truthfully say a bad word about him?''

There was enough room in the large Roman Catholic church for a handful of fans. One of them wore a vintage, No. 6 Musial jersey. Another clapped softly as pallbearers carried the casket from the church to the hearse to the tune of bagpipes.

Among those in attendance were baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, former St. Louis standout Albert Pujols and Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Whitey Herzog and 90-year-old Red Schoendienst, who once roomed with Musial. Joe Torre, a former MVP and manager in St. Louis, and Tony La Russa, who became close with Musial during his 16 seasons managing the Cardinals, sat near the front along with current manager Mike Matheny.

Pujols, who had been on track to challenge many of Musial's franchise records before signing with the Angels 13 months ago, exchanged hugs with Fred Hanser, a member of the Cardinals ownership team, before taking his seat.

Jim Edmonds, a star center fielder for two World Series teams in the 2000s, has the same last name as one of Musial's sons-in-law. He said Musial informed him that they were distant relatives, and greeted him as ``Hey, Cuz!''

``I thought he was kidding at first,'' Edmonds said. ``That's pretty cool.''

Jack Clark, a slugging first baseman for the Cardinals during the 1980s, said he perhaps respected Musial most for his decency during baseball's sometimes difficult period of integration in the 1940s and 1950s.

``Stan kind of crossed that color barrier. When people were getting on the African-American players, he stuck up for them. It was a time when you could kind of get your finger pointed at you for that stuff,'' Clark said. ``People loved him, and he loved them right back.''

Bishop Richard Stika, pastor at Musial's' church in suburban St. Louis for several years, speculated during the homily about why Musial was never ejected from a game during his career: ``I think deep down, that was because he didn't want to go home and face Lil.''

Musial's wife of nearly 72 years, Lillian, died last year.

Grandson Andrew Edmonds said the public Musial was no different from the private Musial, the grandpa who bought McDonalds for the family every Sunday. He recalled a fan telling him, ``Your grandpa's best attribute is he made nobodies feel like somebodies.''

Pallbearers included Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, Musial grandsons Andrew Edmonds and Brian Schwarze, and the retired star's longtime business partner in Stan the Man Inc., Dick Zitzmann.

After the service, the hearse and vans filled with the Cardinals' delegation drove to Busch Stadium, where Musial's family laid flowers at the base of one of his statues - the one that made the move across the street from the old Busch - while being serenaded by ``Take Me Out to the Ball Game.'' Color guards from the city's fire and police departments flanked the statue, along with more than a dozen ballpark ushers. A single Clydesdale walked slowly down the street.

Cardinals closer Jason Motte shook his head.

``This is nothing like I've ever seen,'' he said.

During a funeral that was almost entirely upbeat, son-in-law Martin Schwarze got the biggest laugh when he recounted a 1995 radio interview with Jack Buck during which Musial was asked how good of a hitter he'd have been had he played in the modern era. Musial, who finished with a .331 career batting average, replied he probably would have batted about .275, and Buck said ``Whoa, whoa, whoa,'' that's way too low.

Then Musial added with a chuckle, ``Hey, Jack, I'm 75!''

Thousands filed through the Cathedral Basilica at Musial's six-hour public visitation on Thursday, and hundreds more attended the service.

Hundreds more were waiting at the more prominent of the two Musial statues outside Busch Stadium, where fans have gathered since Musial died after several years of declining health. Next to the statues were flowers, balloons, teddy bears, helmets, autographed items and a homemade sign that read ``Thanks for the memories. You live in our hearts, No. 6.''

``He's been a hero to us for four generations,'' Kathy Noorman of Wentzville, Mo., said, speaking near the statue. ``He was such a good man, somebody you can hold up to grandkids and your own kids as an example of who they should be.''

Mark Springman, 57, of Alton, Ill., brought a bottle of champagne to the statue shrine. He saw Musial play in 1963, Stan the Man's final season, and has been a season-ticket holder for about 15 years.

``He was more than a ballplayer,'' Springman said. ``He was the man.''

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins woeful run game

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USA TODAY Sports

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins woeful run game

News broke that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry. Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or the draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team.

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Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

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Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

On Sunday, Michal Kempny was a defenseman struggling for a spot in the lineup for a team poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. On Monday, he became potentially an important piece on the roster of the first place Capitals.

The last few days have been quite the whirlwind for Kempny who tallied an assist for Chicago on Saturday in a 7-1 blowout against what is now his current team. While the Blackhawks may have gotten the better of Washington that night, Kempny is excited about the postseason opportunity that now lies in front of him.

"Nobody knows what's happening in Chicago, but I'm really happy and I'm really glad that I can be here," Kempny told reporters on Tuesday after his first skate with the team. "There is option of play a playoff and I'm very happy for it."

RELATED: WHERE MICHAL KEMKPNY FITS IN THE CAPS' LINEUP

The 27-year-old Czech defenseman played only 31 games for the Blackhawks this season, but considering Washington's need to shore up its defense before the trade deadline and the team's willingness to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, it is likely he will have a much more significant role with the Caps.

"I thought that I [was] going to get more space on the ice and more ice time, but I didn't play more than half games," Kempny said of his decision to originally sign with Chicago. "But now I'm here and I'm really glad that I'm here. Washington is amazing city and great organization and I hope I will get a chance to access myself on the ice more than in Chicago."

Kempny will not play in Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but did say he expects to play Thursday when the team visits the Florida Panthers.

When he does get into the lineup, it is unclear just how big a role he will play initially or how the team foresees utilizing him going forward. He is a left-shot defenseman and did tell reporters he prefers to play on that side. It seems unlikely the team would acquire him just to put him on his offside.

As of now, however, everything regarding his role in Washington is up on the air.

"I need everything settle down a little bit," he said. "New teammates, new people around here."

MORE CAPITALS: MEET MICHAL KEMPNY