Mixed Emotions

Over the last few days Topps has been releasing a bunch of card images on the build up to the release of 2013 Topps Heritage on Wednesday 6th March!

Always a popular product, especially amongst set collectors (and people called Craig from Texas :)) this years ‘look’ is modelled on the 1964 Topps design – and it’s very nice indeed!

However yesterday Topps posted one particular image that impacted me on a personal level, and I’ve been thinking long and hard over the last as to why that might be!

Here’s the image of the ‘Real One’ Autograph of the late Stan Musial –

As a Cardinals fan for the last 13 or so years, as well as a lover of Baseball history in all it’s many forms, I’m not unaware of the place that this man holds in people’s hearts and his legacy as a Baseball legend.

Since his death back in January I’ve become more and more aware of Stan Musial’s place in the Baseball pantheon. But as much as I’ve read about him as a great ballplayer, there seems to be much more that’s been written about him as a man!

I’m not talking about Musial as ‘The Man’ – that’s a name that’s more linked to the Baseball side of him, as far as I’m concerned – but as the man he was outside of the game, a man who excelled at being an incredible human being. I’ve read numerous stories about Musial over the last few weeks that I’ve found to be incredibly touching and moving, stories that have made me realise that what we’ve lost in Stan Musial is something that goes far beyond Baseball.

This was someone who had a real impact on the world around him and on the people he knew, whether it was his family, his friends, his teammates or just a regular Joe in the street – everyone who speaks of him tells stories of his generosity of spirit, of a man who always made the time for one more autograph or to shake one more hand.

There’s a reason that he was awarded the highest US civil honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama in 2010.

We all leave legacies behind. My legacy will be my two daughters. It’s unlikely I’ll ever live a life as full and as rich as the one that Stan Musial lived. But that’s OK! I’m not going to beat myself up about that or wallow in self pity over it. If we do the best with what we have in the time that we have it, then I guess that’s something to look back on and be proud of.

So why do I have an issue with this particular card?

It’s been well documented that as Stan Musial got older you could see marked deterioration in his signature. This is to be expected. Our bodies do start to let us all down as we slowly advance in years, but the mere fact that he kept on signing, honouring his commitment to Topps and giving something back to the fans, is once more testament to the type of man that he was.

But when I first saw this card I had an immediate reaction to it, something that I rarely get from a Baseball card. For some reason I had a tightening in my gut, and it took me a few minutes to properly understand and appreciate what had caused it.

You see, when I look at that card I don’t see the legacy of a man who is celebrated both as a ballplayer and as a humanitarian. I don’t see the outfielder for the St Louis Cardinals who won so many accolades as a player that they couldn’t all be inscribed on his plaque at Cooperstown. I don’t see the man who played his harmonica on those long road trips to ball parks in the 40’s and 50’s. I don’t see the man who would spend his time with the Cardinals throughout Spring Training, thrilling both veterans and rookies with his stories from the past.

All I see is the reality as I perceive it! A man, in his early 90’s, struggling to sign his name on a 3″ by 2″ piece of card.

And this fills me with such a profound sense of sadness that I’m at a loss to put it into words.

I understand why Topps have put this card in 2013 Heritage and I appreciate it’s place there. There may be no-one else out there that feels the same way about this particular card in the way I’ve just described, I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to. For me it was an intensely personal reaction when I first saw it, and it’s the same reaction I get now, over 24 hours later.

Please understand that I’m not trying to court any controversy with my comments here, I’m not having a dig at anyone about the card itself or the reason that it exists. This was just a visceral response and my thoughts on how it has affected me. If I’ve upset or pissed anyone off with what I’ve written then my apologies – that was never my intention.

If anything I see this card as an example of the frailty in all of us. At 42 years of age I’ve had a recent health scare that’s made me all too aware of my own mortality. After a number of tests it turns out I’m in perfectly fit and healthy, but maybe it’s because of these recent events, and the thought that I’ve given to my health and the ageing process, that has made me view this card in a different way?

Who knows?

Either way, this isn’t how I want to remember Stan Musial’s legacy or the man himself!

I hope that whoever gets to own this card treats it with the respect and reverence it deserves as I would imagine it’s probably one of the last few cards that Musial signed before his death.

If anything maybe we should all be lobbying Topps to put a commemorative set together honouring the life and career of Stanley Frank Musial, something that we could all have a chance of owning and being a part of?

Thank you for taking the time to read through this and I’m more than happy to respond to any comments!



2 thoughts on “Mixed Emotions

  1. Well said, Andy!
    It is heart-wrenching to hear about all the things Stan accomplished on and off the field only to see people make comments about the way his signature looks in 2013 products. (*Ahem, Chris Perez.)
    This further fuels my theory about there being various levels of “maturity” in collectors.
    I’m not just saying these things because I’m a Cardinals fan either, there are certain players out there that I would never trade/sell their autograph or relic if I owned it because of the respect I have for them and their legacy.

    1. Thanks James.

      This was a difficult one to write as it’s a highly emotive topic for me!

      I’m completely torn on the card and its place in the product. On the one hand I wish I’d never have seen it in the first place – then I wouldn’t have had all these mixed feelings about it, but on the other hand it has its place!

      I do hope that Topps don’t have many more of Stan’s autographs that will go into upcoming products. I’d prefer it if they weren’t include it out of respect for ‘The Man’, but alternatively should they still be included for the same reason?

      As I said… very torn!

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