Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

November 26, 2012

Stan Musial was truly a hit with my father


Mineral Wells Index

— By GUINN SWEET

“But he ‘his musical finesse was such, so good his{eye} ear, so delicate his {swing}touch made poetry a mere mechanic art; and every warbler has his tune by heart.” – William Cowper.

I have taken a few liberties with punctuation and wording in the above quotation, but as you read further you will understand the necessity of transliteration, if you will. This is the story of my father and his hero, Stan Musial, baseball player supreme in the 1940s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s. You will soon see why the word musical is involved in the leading

quotation. The story is told at this time because Mr. Musial’s birthday fell on Nov. 21, making him 92 years old this week, so the time is right to celebrate the athletic prowess of his baseball career of the past.

There are two “stories” involved in this. The first, I think I should mention, is the mis-naming of Mr. Musial, and involves a certain amount of either ignorance or ADD on my part.

Before I started to school, I learned to read the Fort Worth Star-Telegram columns of two main writers. They were my favorite readings and had unusual names. The first was Dorothea Dix and the other was Fontaigne Fox. No one bothered to tell me their correct pronunciation, so I called Ms. Dix, “Dougherty” Dix, because it looked like the name of my daddy’s hometown, Dougherty, Okla. I likewise misspoke Mr. Fox’s given name, making him “Fountain” Fox. You can easily see where a 4- to 5-year-old reader might make these mistakes.

That sort of error stayed with me even after I learned to read in school to the point that, 10 years or so later, I was introduced to Stan Musial (via sports pages of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram again), first pitcher and then outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Yes, you are right, I read his name as Stan Musical. This was something that I was aware of, but for some reason I just kept repeating those names in error, although I had learned better. By this time I was enamored of sports figures more than newspaper journalists.

Now, the story introduces my daddy, a World War I veteran and temporary resident of the Veterans’ Hospital and Home in Sulphur, Okla. Daddy had injured his leg in a powered lawn mower accident and, not having anyone at his home in Dougherty to care for him, took advantage of the free treatment and lodging of the Sulphur facility. His “room” was an approximately 20-bed ward, filled with other aging and grumpy old veterans. Daddy had long since become an ardent, and even violent, fan of Stan Musial as he made sports headlines as star player, super hitter and all-round record holder for the St. Louis baseball team. He was probably the all-timer of all-timers as far as holding records for base hits, home runs, runs batted in and all-round good guy of the Cardinals for almost three decades. The story of Daddy’s behavior one special day in the Veterans’ Hospital returned to my memory because of the announcement of his 92nd birthday on Wednesday of this week.

We found out that we needed to pick daddy up with all his belongings by a telephone call from Sulphur. We were shocked, because we had visited a few days before and he was still unable to walk without assistance. We were advised to readmit him to the VA Hospital in Dallas, ASAP.

We took off to Sulphur right away and found the entire ward of his residence in disorder. The story we were told was a game between the Cardinals and an arch enemy (I don’t remember which one) had reached critical when Daddy, not willing to miss a word, turned up the volume of his bedside radio to “High” and his next-bed roommate presumed to turn it completely off – at a critical point in the outcome of the game.

Daddy, it was told to us, fetched his urinal from the bedside table, walked over to his next-bed neighbor and began to beat him over the head, neck and shoulders with it, turned the radio back up to its loudest and tried to drown out the screams coming from the adjacent bed. They were not musical at all, as related to us by the administrator.

As we gathered up Daddy’s belongings, including his radio, we were told that they would not send a report of his behavior to the Dallas VA facility, but that we should know that he would never again be admitted to the hospital in Oklahoma.

I don’t remember the final outcome of the game. This day on Mr. Musical’s birthday, I am sure that he remembers it well, or maybe not. Happy birthday, Stan Musical!