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Hall of famer was impressive as just another guy

 


Boise, Idaho, was a great baseball town — home to the Boise Braves, a Milwaukee Class C farm club in the Pioneer League.

But it was the large number of big-league players that set the tone in the valley.

Larry Jackson, Harmon Killebrew and Vernon Law made their home in the city and in nearby towns. Jackson was from Boise, Law from Meridian and Killebrew from Emmett.

It was Jackson, a teammate of Stan Musial, who helped me get a long interview with Musial.

Jackson, a right-handed pitcher, played with Musial with the St. Louis Cardinals for a number of years, and was the one who alerted me that Musial was coming to town to promote the election of John F. Kennedy, back in 1960.

In the offseason, Jackson would come in to the Idaho Statesman from time to time and write pieces for our sports section.

He stopped by my desk to tell me that Musial would arrive the next day and would be riding through the downtown streets promoting Kennedy.

I quickly asked him if he could arrange a meeting for me with Musial while he was in town.

He said he would see what he could do.

The next day he told me to be at a certain location where Musial would take off in a convertible to tour the downtown area.

When I arrived, Jackson, true to his word, had set it up for me to ride in the convertible next to Musial, where I would have his total attention for my interview.

When I sat with him, he turned to me as if to say, “How is it going, kid?”

After Jackson told me that he would try to arrange for me to interview Musial, I had barely a day to cram for it.

To visit and ask questions of the future Hall of Fame baseball player was like talking to your next-door neighbor. He made you feel like you were the only one around him.

Musial, named “Stan the Man,” passed away this past year at 92.

He was perhaps one of the all-time premium baseball players.

His major league career lifetime batting average was .331.

He had won 16 National League batting titles, and his statistics were so numerous officials couldn’t get them all on a plaque in his honor in Coopertown.

Musial had 3,630 major-league hits, 475 home runs and 1,951 RBIs.

He was an all-star 24 times, three times a World Series champion, three times the NL’s “most valuable player,” and seven times the NL batting champion.

He came up from the minors, where he was a pitcher, but his bat put him in Busch Stadium as an outfielder and sometimes first baseman.

There’s a statue of him in front of Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.

I never got to Busch Stadium, but once when atop the famous Arch, I could see it from there.

Musial retired in 1963. President Barack Obama presented Musial with the “Medal of Freedom.”

Willie Mays said of Musial, “I never heard anyone say a bad word about him.”

His records and status as a major league player are unquestionable. But it was his ability to be just another guy when you met him that sticks in the mind.

By the way, Larry Jackson was a major league heavyweight in his own right.

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