I recently picked up a Stan Musial scrapbook at the Stan the Man, Inc. booth at Winter Warm-Up. It’s a special edition, nicely bound compilation of all of the Sporting News articles printed about Stan Musial from the 40’s to the early 60’s. Oh…and Stan signed it as well ;).
I have to admit, I am nervous as heck about reading it. Holding a Stan Musial autograph makes me jittery enough, but actually flipping through pages of a book that contains his signature…ugh. Needless to say, this is not a book I read while falling asleep in bed. No…instead, I’m usually sitting anxiously on the couch in our living room – nice posture, clean hands, no open drinks within ten feet – staring carefully at the small type print used in the scanned newspaper clipping. When I’m done reading it, I slide it carefully back into the uber-padded envelope – cautiously aware of the strip of packing tape used to seal the package.
It only comes out on those special occasions when I know I can sit and read without being interrupted. In a family of four, those moments don’t come along often. But when I first got home with it, I couldn’t resist pulling it out and at least reading some of it.
First of all, I have to say the writing style of journalists in the 40s was so dramatically different than today. Reading a story from that time period was, in many cases, truly like reading a story. So many of the articles we read today are focused on one thing and one thing only – information exchange. Get the facts, get ’em fast, and get out of the way. On to the next article. And honestly, it’s our fault. We demand so much information in a clean, quick, efficient delivery method that journalists don’t really have the time to be journalists anymore – they’re reporters. They report information. That’s all we think we want now.
But back then…it was a bit different.
A perfect example of such journalism was perhaps the first story I read in my scrapbook. I believe it was called, “A Cup of Coffee with Stan Musial” – and it was about exactly what it sounded like. A journalist sitting down in a diner to share a conversation and a cup of coffee with Stan “The Man” Musial. He wasn’t trying to get the “scoop” on an injury, or talk about stats and box scores, or even discuss the standings and the Cardinals’ playoff hopes.
He was just having an experience with Stan Musial – an experience most individuals can never have – and then writing about it so that we can enjoy reading about it.
It occurred to me while reading that story that two things are now true:
1. Most fans are – for the most part – no longer interested in reading those types of stories. Oh, many enjoy them when they get them, like the recent article about Matt Holliday by Joe Strauss in the Post Dispatch, but they don’t tend to seek them out. In fact, I’ve seen some pretty hateful comments from readers directed towards reporters trying to be journalists again. So the demand for these stories is disappearing…
2. The culture and media environment we live in rarely offers an opportunity for stories and experiences like these to take place. Can you imagine Stan Musial attempting to sit down in a small diner in St. Louis today? Sure…now, at his age, many fans would respect his privacy and need for quiet and give him space…but what if he was at his playing age? Fans would mob The Man as soon as he was recognized – especially in a more coastal environment like New York or L.A. And there’s an interesting part to all this…if he was recognized. The many media outlets available to all of us today make it pretty difficult for a baseball fan to grow up without being able to recognize a large portion of the famous and infamous baseball players from his/her generation. But back in “the day,” I would imagine a man like a young Stan Musial could stand at least a 50/50 chance of walking into a small diner, sitting down with another fellow, having a cup of coffee, and going about his way. Oh sure…a few of the patrons might have a quiet conversation about it, but there’s a good chance nothing would come of it.
Floyd: “Hey, Doris…izzat who I think it is?”
Doris (setting coffee pot down behind the counter and wiping her hands on her apron…then squinting at the corner of the diner): “Who you think it is, Floyd?”
Floyd: “Why…ain’t that that new kid…plays outfield fer the Cardinals…what’s his name? Moo-sul?”
Doris (smirking skeptically…waives hand at Floyd and laughs): “Oh, Floyd…now why would some ball player be comin’ in here?”
Floyd: “I tell ya’, Doris…it is! It’s that Moo-sul!”
Doris: “It is not…now eat yer pie and hush up. You’re gonna’ bother my customers.”
Floyd (clearly surrendering the point and returning to his pie): “Bah…yer prolly right. Ain’t him…’sides, that kid ain’t gonna’ make it long up here anyways. You see that swing ‘a his? Twists himself up like a twister. ‘Bout looks like he’s gonna’ fall over.”
(both *giggle* and *snicker*…and Stanley is left alone)
Now…picture Matt Holliday walking into a diner today in downtown St. Louis. Much running and shoving, I suspect…well…maybe not so much in St. Louis…but you get my point.
I remember reading that article and just thinking to myself the whole time about how amazing it was that a man could walk into a diner, sit down for at least an hour with Stan Musial, and have a quiet cup of coffee…and then people would ACTUALLY want to read about it!
Times truly have changed.
Thanks for reading!