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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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Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

The initiative to get Otto Porter Jr. more attempts from three this season is not off to a great start.

That right there is called an understatement. Because it would be one thing if Porter only took a couple of them, but he literally took zero against the Heat on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

Yes, one of the NBA's best three-point shooters didn't even get off a single attempt from long range. That is simply hard to justify, especially after a preseason in which the team had a stated goal to shoot more threes than ever before.

It wasn't just threes. The often deferential Porter was even more gun shy than normal. He only took seven total shots in the 113-112 loss and topped out at just nine points.

Porter, in fact, had just one field goal attempt until there was 1:19 remaining in the first half, when he got two of them on the same play thanks to a rebound on his own miss.

Porter still affected the game in other ways, per usual. He had 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks and finished +1 in +/- rating.

But for Porter to reach the next level as a player, he has to add volume to his efficient scoring numbers.

"We will look at the film and figure it out," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's not like we go into the game wanting to only shoot 26 threes [as a team] and Otto shoot zero."

Brooks continued to say the problem is a combination of several things. More plays could be called for Porter and his teammates could look for him more often.

But ultimately, it's up to Porter to assert himself and take initiative. Granted, that may have been easier said than done against the Heat, who boast one of the best perimeter defenders in basketball in Josh Richardson. They are a scrappy team with athletic and hard-nosed defenders on the wing.

For Porter, though, that shouldn't matter. Ultimately, his share of the offense is up to him. The ball is going to swing around often enough for him to create his own opportunities.

Porter only taking seven shots is a bad sign considering Thursday was a better opportunity to get shots than he may receive in most games. The Wizards added Dwight Howard this summer and last season he averaged 11.2 shots per game, 3.4 more than Marcin Gortat, whom he replaced in the starting lineup.

It won't be easy, but the Wizards need Porter to take matters into his own hands.

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Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

The Caps looked like they were in good shape in the third period on Wednesday. With a 3-2 lead in the final frame against a New York Rangers team that had played the night before, Washington looked like they were starting to wear down the blue shirts and tilt the ice in their favor.

But everything changed just before the midway point of the period.

Nathan Walker, in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 4, chased down Neal Pionk behind the Rangers net as Pionk went to collect the puck. Walker put his arms around the Rangers’ defenseman to slow him up and he was called for holding.

“That was the safest thing possible for me to do is to wrap him up and take him in the corner like that,” Walker said to NBC Sports Washington on Friday. “Personally, I didn't think it was a good call on the ref's side, but that's the way it goes.”

Just over a minute later, Chris Kreider deflected a shot that was going wide past Braden Holtby for the power play goal to tie the game at 3.

A third period mistake that tied the game from a player in and out of the lineup could have been a devastating moment for Walker, but head coach Todd Reirden was adamant after the game that he did not want Walker to lose his aggressiveness or change the way he plays as a result of Wednesday’s mistake.

“I insert him to be aggressive and his intensity was something we needed,” Reirden said. “I thought he won a lot of puck battles earlier in the game and at different points. He's pursuing the puck trying to force a turnover and it ends up as a call against. That's I think a tough call in that situation, but we're able to pick him up and if there's a guy on our team that we want to rally around and try to come back for, it's someone like that with a work ethic and just commitment and dedication and how he is as a teammate.”

Luckily for Walker, the Caps were still able to get the win thanks to Matt Niskanen’s overtime goal. Those were nervous moments for him watching as the team tried to overcome his mistake.

“It's definitely nerve-wracking for sure,” Walker said. “You kind of feel like you're the reason why they got back into the game. I personally thought we were all over them in the third period up until they got that goal. I think we still played really well, but obviously the play with the lead is a lot nicer than playing tied up 10 minutes to go in the third. It was nerve-wracking, but it was good that the guys came through and we got the two points at the end of the day so that's the main thing.”

The fact that Walker’s mistake did not end up costing the team will make it easier for Reirden’s message to sink in. It’s his aggressiveness that makes him valuable. One mistake should not make him change that aspect of his game.

Said Reirden, “It's something that if he stops hunting pucks and creating havoc up ice then he's just a very average player that's going to find himself in and out of the league.”

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