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Big crowds turn out for Stan Musial visitation

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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.''

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Blue Jackets troll Capitals on Twitter after retaking lead in Metro Division

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Blue Jackets troll Capitals on Twitter after retaking lead in Metro Division

The Columbus Blue Jackets threw some serious shade at the Caps Tuesday night after their 7-2 blowout loss to the Predators.

The Jackets are now tied for the Metro lead after the Caps lost their third straight game, and they let them have it on Twitter.

That's a bold jab coming from the team that lost to the Caps in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs...

The GIF comes from Saturday night's overtime loss to the Jackets where Columbus celebrated Artemi Panarin's game-winner with Evgeny Kuznetsov's signature bird celly.

When asked about the copycat celebration last Saturday, Kuzy said, "That's fine. It's nice to get some people that think about me, same as in April last year.”

The Capitals meet the Blue Jackets again Feb. 12 where the only bird celly should come from Kuzy.

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Caps suffer third straight loss as they get rocked in Music City

Caps suffer third straight loss as they get rocked in Music City

The final score of a game can often be deceiving, but that was certainly not the case on Tuesday. The Capitals lost 7-2 to the Nashville Predators in a game every bit as one-sided as the score indicates. Viktor Arvidsson scored a hat trick and Nick Bonino added another two goals in a game that was well in hand before the end of the second period.

Here are three reasons the Caps lost.

Viktor Arvidsson

Arvidsson came into this game with 14 goals this season and 21 points in 23 games. He is one of the best players in the league that no one talks about and that was certainly on display in this game. He wasn’t a one trick pony either. His first goal came on the breakaway, his second was a deflection and his third was a shorthanded breakaway.

Arvidsson’s third goal

As one-sided as the game was, there was a moment in the second period when it looked like Washington was going to claw its way back into it. Down 3-0 in the second period, Nicklas Backstrom scored on the power play to make it 3-1. Less than five minutes later, T.J. Oshie drew a tripping call from Calle Jarnkrok. Suddenly it looked as if the Caps had a chance.

But once again, Washington had no answer for Arvidsson.

Backstrom tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone, but he was met and challenged by Arvidsson. Backstrom lost the puck and Arvidsson took off while Ryan Johansen grabbed the puck in the neutral zone. Johansen fed Arvidsson for the breakaway and he delivered the knockout punch.

Washington was eyeing a 3-2 game, but instead they suddenly found themselves down 4-1 and the rout was on.

Poor decisions

Give all the credit to Nashville for dominating this game, they dominated and deserved to win. Having said that, the Caps were clearly their own worst enemy in Nashville.

Tom Wilson carried the puck into the offensive zone in the first period. With no open passing lane, the only real option he had was to dump and chase or drive himself and pass back to the blue line. Instead, he forced a pass to Ovechkin who had to stop and reach back to grab the puck. He was also being covered by two players so it was no surprise when he turned the puck over. The resulting breakout led to a breakaway and Arvidsson’s first goal.

In the second period, Andre Burakovsky had the puck and looked like he had a lane to shoot or dive to the net. Instead, he pulled up and tried to cross the puck. The pass was easily picked off and Rocco Grimaldi was off in the other direction. He would finish off the play with a highlight-reel spin-o-rama goal, but it all started with a poor decision.

This game was full of those moments. Bad decision by the Caps and the puck was off in the other direction. The uglier the game got, the more Washington’s system and hockey sense went out the window. Two of Nashville’s goals came on the breakaway and one came on a two-on-one. Those type of odd-man breaks happen because of breakdowns.

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