By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern lost a basketball doubleheader Saturday afternoon at home against Nebraska-Kearney.
Earlier in the afternoon the Missouri Tigers lost by 31 points at Florida, and Kansas rallied to win at Texas.
Just when I’m thinking the day can’t get any worse, word comes out that Stan Musial dies.
Stan “the Man” Musial, the greatest St. Louis Cardinal of them all. And my favorite baseball player of all time.
It was in the early 1960s when my parents took me to St. Louis to see my first major league baseball game. Old Sportsman’s Park, and my first reaction walking into the stadium was I couldn’t believe how green the grass was.
The Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Braves 12-8 that night. If memory serves me correctly, the Cardinals scored eight runs in the eighth inning, and Musial made the first and last outs of the inning.
But that didn’t matter.
I saw Musial play a few more times before he retired after the 1963 season. My parents bought me a Stan Musial autobiography signed by him and co-author Bob Broeg — $4.95 hardback. (Yes, it was purchased several years ago.)
In May 1984, I spent a weekend in St. Louis as Parkwood High School played a baseball state tournament game in St. Charles on Saturday, and the Cardinals retired Kenny Boyer’s No. 14 on Sunday.
On the bus with the Parkwood team, I mentioned something about Stan Musial, and one of the players said, “Stan Musial, who is that?”
I can’t remember a time I was more shocked.
I also can’t remember hearing anyone say something bad about Stan Musial, other than broadcaster Harry Caray’s disappointment when Musial would make an out with runners in scoring position.
Musial’s life away from the diamond was solid. He and his wife Lil, who died last year, were married 72 years.
“Stan’s life embodies baseball’s unparalleled history and why this game is the national pastime. As remarkable as ‘Stan the Man’ was on the field, he was a true gentleman in life,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
And perhaps in a final tribute from the city of St. Louis, the Blues beat Detroit 6-0 Saturday night in their National Hockey League season opener. Yes, six goals for No. 6 on the day he died. How cool is that?
WACKY WEEK IN MIAA
Both MIAA basketball races had unusual happenings last week.
On Wednesday night Lincoln won 65-60 at Northwest Missouri State. The Blue Tigers hit 14-of-14 free throws in the final 1:22 to help end a 12-game losing streak against the Bearcats.
And Truman State, in its farewell trip around the conference, won 64-56 at Washburn — the Bulldogs’ fourth victory in 30 games at Lee Arena.
Then on Saturday afternoon, the three women’s teams that have the highest national ranking all lost — No. 9 Washburn 52-43 at Northeastern State, No. 11 Central Missouri 73-64 at Truman State and No. 21 Fort Hays State 51-48 at No. 24 Pittsburg State.
In addition, Nebraska-Kearney’s teams — both sporting 1-6 MIAA records — came to Missouri Southern and swept the Lions by scores of 67-60 in overtime in the women’s game and 74-66 in the men’s contest.
“In the MIAA you have to be ready to play every night,” MSSU women’s coach Maryann Mitts said. “You have to play well every night, and I think we have a lot of kids who are looking for breathers or looking for something easy. Maybe they looked at the standings and thought we’d play less than our best and still win, and that’s the sign of an immature ball club.”
“We addressed those things,” Lions men’s coach Robert Corn said. “You look at the Wednesday night scores, and nobody in this room would have thought that Lincoln would go to Northwest or Truman would go into Washburn and win those games. You have to be ready to go each and every night or you’re going to get it handed to you. Obviously we weren’t ready to play (Saturday), and we got it handed to us.”
JIM HENRY is executive sports editor of The Joplin Globe.