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A St. Louis author says Stan Musial is a man for all generations

Stan Musial on opening day 2011. Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett says he'll sign a bill renaming a bridge near Musial's hometown for the Cardinal great.
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
Stan Musial on Opening Day 2011. He spent 22 seasons as a Major League Baseball player.

Stephanie Bearce wants to make sure children know about one of the greatest Cardinal players of all time. She has written “Stan Musial: From Donora, PA to St. Louis, MO and the Big Leagues." Middle school students are the target audience, but Bearce says people of all ages can learn from Musial’s approach to life. She talked about the book and Stan the Man with St. Louis Public Radio’s Wayne Pratt.

Wayne Pratt: Why Stan Musial?

Stephanie Bearce: Because who doesn't love Stan Musial? I think one of the best things to remember about introducing kids to Stan Musial is a quote that came from Albert Pujols. It was shortly after Stan died and Albert said: “I wish my kids had the opportunity to be around him because that's how I want my kids to live their lives. I want them to be like Stan Musial. Not the baseball player, the person. That's the respect I have for that man.”

And introducing kids to Stan Musial gives a couple of things. First of all, it gives them an opportunity to learn from someone who has great character, grit and determination and also introduces them to baseball, and who doesn't want kids to learn about baseball and enjoy that.

Pratt: He was born in 1920. His last game was in ‘63, enshrined in the Hall of Fame in ‘69. I'm not great at math, but that's a long time ago.

Bearce: It is a very long time ago.

Pratt: So, expand on your strategy to introduce him to a new generation.

Bearce: Well, there's a couple of ways. One is through social emotional learning. That's where we're going in and helping kids to have some heroes, and Stan Musial is a great hero. I've got a program called STAND with Stan. It introduces the acronym STAND for skills, teamwork, attitude, new ideas and discipline, which are all things that you can learn from Stan's biography and his history. And the other is that his trajectory in life followed so many important parts of our recent history. He was born in the Roaring ‘20s. Grew up during the Depression. Served in World War II. Was there for the integration of baseball and then actually campaigned for JFK. Just following his lifeline also helps kids really get a comprehension of history too.

St. Louis -based author Stephanie Bearce has written dozens of children's books, including one about Stan Musial.
Reedy Press
Local author Stephanie Bearce grew up in Kansas, but became a Cardinals fan when she moved to St. Louis.

Pratt: I want to make sure I understand something you just said. You have an entire program to teach kids built around Stan?

Bearce: I do. It's a 50-minute program explaining about Stan Musial's life and how kids can follow his example to be successful in their own lives. I also have another program that's called the Daring Days of Baseball. And that one actually follows the history and ties Stan's life to the history of the times. Talking about him serving in World War II, in the Navy, and the different ways his life interacted in history.

Pratt: So do you take these initiatives into schools?

Bearce: Absolutely.

Pratt: And what's been the reaction when you get in front of the kids?

Bearce: Well, these are new programs. This book has just been rereleased. This is just one of my books. I've got 36 books out there for kids, so I do visit schools and have a good time with them. I enjoy that a lot.

Image of a young Stan Musial in the book 'Stan Musial: From Donora, PA to St. Louis, MO and the Big Leagues."
Reedy Press
A young Stan Musial in the book "Stan Musial: From Donora, PA to St. Louis, MO and the Big Leagues."

Pratt: Did those experiences strike something in your mind and say, hey, Stan Musial would be good?

Bearce: Absolutely. It's so fun to have a hero. And I loved researching Stan Musial because I've done a lot of books and done a lot of research and I've done other biographies, and you usually find something in there that's like, oh, really disappointed a little bit. But you know what?

With Stan, I didn't.

Pratt: In all your research, was there anything that surprised you?

Bearce: I did not realize a lot of baseball history as far as the low pay. That Stan had to work in the off-season in Donora and the steel mills. He didn't consider himself poor, but he and his brother would go and dig in the area to get coal to heat the house. So, we would consider that Stan grew up in lower socioeconomics, but he just had a great attitude. So those things surprised me. You don't really hear about those parts of Stan's life.

Pratt: Going from Pennsylvania to St Louis to Cooperstown, it's just fascinating.

Bearce: It is. And he started playing professional baseball at 16. He was earning $65 a week when he started out and trying to save as much as he could to bring it home to help out his family. He just has a lot of characteristics that I think young people can learn from now. The hard work and the attitude that it was all good. He was excited about the things that he got to do.

Pratt: Thanks for taking time, and good luck with the book.

Bearce: Thanks for having me and, and thanks for talking about Stan.

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.