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.
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.”