Cardinals Welcome Back Baseball with Class, Say Final Farewell to Musial

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Cardinals Welcome Back Baseball with Class, Say Final Farewell to Musial
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
The children of Stan Musial unveil the tribute that will be on the left field wall throughout 2013.

There are a handful of things that every true baseball fan should do at least once in their life.

Everyone should visit Yankee Stadium, the Baseball Hall of Fame, catch a ball at a game (at least during batting practice), play catch with a loved one at the Field of Dreams (in Iowa and yes, it really exists) and attend a St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day.

Few organizations in professional sports can boast the history, legends and triumph that the St. Louis Cardinals can. Of those who can, none do it with the level of class and reverence as the Cardinals.

On Opening Day, they put it on full display. The Clydesdales are marched out and the streets are filled with red. When I arrived at the stadium around 9 a.m., thousands were already surrounding the stadium.

Fans from all walks of life come out for what is basically the St. Louis New Year.

They come to watch baseball and see the legends of their generation. They come to see Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog and Stan Musial.

Well, at least they did until this year. Now they're here to remember Musial.

The Cardinals honored their hero in grand fashion Monday. If anyone wants to contest that, it was clearly evident by the number of Cincinnati Reds who stood in the dugout to watch. Several even applauded as he was honored.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Musial's four children unveiled an insignia on the left field wall that matches the patch that is sewn onto each player’s uniform for the season. It’s a small token, but Stan wouldn't have wanted a big fuss.

The video tribute was also very touching.

Each of the Cardinals’ living Hall of Famers turned to watch the video. Some smiled and others could be seen wiping their eyes. Don’t forget, it’s their first Opening Day without Musial, too. They’ve lost a brother in St. Louis’ most exclusive club.

The video tribute showed footage from his 3000th hit, as well as other major milestones from during and after his playing career. When he was shown telling the joke about his knee and playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his harmonica one final time, fans could be seen wiping away tears and smiling as they recalled their own special Stan the Man memories.

Everyone has their own Musial memory. You've heard mine so I won't bore you with the details.

The Gateway Harmonica Club, of which Musial was a lifetime honorary member, played the National Anthem. It was different from what fans are used to on Opening Day, but it was right. It was "Stan."

The Cardinals couldn't manage to hold on for the win against their division rival Cincinnati Reds, but that still wasn't enough to spoil Stan the Man's last day at the ballpark.

People will always remember his legacy—not only what he meant to the team and city, but the entire Midwest—as one of hope, courage and love.

There will always be great baseball players. Eventually, some of his records will fall to the next legend to don the birds on the bat. But, there will never be another Stan Musial.

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