Earl Weaver and Stan Musial, Legends and Reminders

My grandfather was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky.  He was raised in a small town outside of Louisville.  It was a fitting place, really.  He would inspire generations of baseball love in my family - all spewing out of the hometown of the game's most famous bat.  In fact, my father would later be born in the city that gave us the Louisville Slugger.  Eventually, I was born in Pittsburgh, another town tied to baseball through history.  Unfortunately, I don't know the details of my grandfather's love affair with baseball.  All I know is he passed that love on to my father.  And my father to me.  I can remember my Dad telling me stories of some of the greats he grew up watching.  I can remember him telling of the times he and his dad shared conversations about their baseball memories.  I don't know the details of those conversations, but they are easy to imagine.

My grandfather grew up when players like Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle were in their primes.  He enjoyed the sport when legends like Ernie Banks and Warren Spahn turned a child's game into something so much more.  He grew up when Stan Musial was quietly making himself into one of the greatest players of all-time.

My father traveled around with my grandfather throughout the eastern and midwest portions of the country.  Louisville, Kentucky; Chicago, Illinois; Memphis, Tennessee; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In his days growing up in and around these cities, my dad listened to games that featured Pete Rose and Johnny Bench.  He watched games where Roberto Clemente and Mike Schmidt wowed fans.  My dad fell in love with the game when Earl Weaver was pissing everyone off and winning more games than an other manager of his time.

Stan Musial and Earl Weaver died this weekend, and their passing is a reminder of our own mortality.  Legends, Hall of Famers, the game's greats.  They have come and gone.  Yet, when news of Earl Weaver's passing broke early Saturday, I was struck by something.  For the first time, I thought about how much time would pass before the greats I grew up watching would be gone.  Later Saturday night, news of Stan Musial's passing only served to reinforce the fact that no matter how large the figure, no matter how great the player, time is limited.

Of the players my grandfather grew up watching, how many are still alive?  Of the players my dad loved as a kid, how much time do they have left?  Some have already passed.  Others will soon.  And with each passing legend, the stars of my generation grow in fame.  That's the way it works, isn't it?  And those stars, the ones who made me love the game, they will be gone one day too.  The problem with that, of course, is that the gap between my age and the age of these great baseball players closes by the year.

The point is, appreciate the stories as they happen.  Forget about the disappointments.  They won't stop.  Players will cheat, players will lie.  Players are human.  In the end, though, there are still heroes.  There are Stan Musials out there.  There are innovative managers in the game now.  We just have to appreciate them while we can.

The fact is, I may be able to tell my son stories of watching Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, and Cal Ripken play, but one day that's all they will be.  Stories.  Like the rest, they will fade away into time, into history.  They will leave this earth, but forever live on in our memories.

Stan Musial and Earl Weaver are gone but not forgotten.  And their deaths serve as a reminder that we need to embrace what we have now.  We need to appreciate the game we love.  Tell your stories, pass on the joy of baseball to another generation, and take time to enjoy the living legends while they still are living.

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