As timing would have it, reader Carolyn Brown sent along an article here in yesterday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about the Musial family settling his estate and how some of the items give an insight into who Stan Musial was -- a man the mention was often referred to as "the perfect knight."
One passage leaps out. If my point was made before, this should settle it.
Three other auction lots also reveal something about who Musial was.
These lots all contain the same thing: Dollar-bill rings autographed by Musial. There are 610 of these rings in all.
The origami rings are a big part of Musial’s legend, recounted in many stories about how the former baseball star loved to make his fans happy. He carried autographed hats and photos in the trunk of his car, ready to hand out to the people who were sure to approach him. He liked to tell jokes. And he liked to perform this one trick with dollar bills.
When a fan would walk up to him, he’d pull out a bill, fold it this way and that, back and forth, never looking at what he was doing. Sometimes, he’d tell a joke. Suddenly, he’d created a paper ring. He’d slip the rings on women’s fingers like a wedding band. And he’d autograph the ring, too. Fans loved it. His peers and family marveled at how much it meant to Musial to see his fans smile.
“He always thought it was his honor that people wanted his autograph,” -grandson Brian] Schwarze said.
But the auction is selling hundreds of these rings. They are pre-made. The piles appear commercial, like peeking into a boiler room of memorabilia manufacturing. They don’t look like a labor of love.
That’s not what happened, Schwarze said.
Musial was getting older. His fingers were getting stiff. Twisting dollar bills into rings took him more and more time and sometimes more dexterity than he had.
So, in his late 80s, he hatched a plan. He sat his grandson down and taught him how to craft the dollar-bill rings, how to fold the paper this way and that. Schwarze struggled. But he got the hang of it. And then Musial signed every one.
Musial wanted to make sure he always had something to give to his fans. They had come to expect it. And the perfect knight wasn’t about to disappoint.
And another reason why he was known as "The Man."