I do make an honest attempt not to be a homer, but today is a special day for St. Louis. President Obama will award the highest honor a civilian can receive in the United States – the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of the fifteen recipients, three have significant St. Louis ties. Maya Angelou, born in St. Louis, is undoubtedly this generation’s most honored and respected poet. Bill Russell, originally drafted by the St. Louis Hawks, is one of the greatest players in the history of basketball. He is a member of every conceivable hall of fame. Russell holds more records, championships, and awards than many franchises. Last, but certainly not least, is Stan “The Man” Musial. Musial holds the title of the “Greatest Cardinal Ever.” He is a former 24-time All-Star, 3-time National League MVP, and winner of three World Series titles with the Cardinals as well.
Each one of these individuals has made significant meritorious contributions to the United States. I know what you’re thinking. Maya Angelou and Bill Russell are black, but I’ve seen Stan Musial and “The Man” is a lot of things, but African-American…not so much. You would be correct. Musial is Polish-American and last time I checked he had not changed color. Follow my logic for a moment. Including Musial in today’s post is important to African-American history. You see, we all live in the context of the other. Just as it was wrong to exclude African-Americans from all parts of society, it would be equally wrong to exclude Musial. Sure, I could go on and on about Russell and Angelou, tell you to “Be a Good Sport!” and go about my merry way. But that’s what happened to African-Americans. Stories were written and tales told about this great country without any mention of the darker-skinned people who contributed to a certain outcome.
Musial became the first National League player to sign a $100,000 contract in 1958. If he doesn’t sign for hundreds of thousands back then, nobody signs for millions and tens of millions today. It’s all interwoven. Musial and Russell played during roughly the same time. How great must it have been to be a sports fan while they were playing? I’m sure many kids of all races started playing basketball because of Bill Russell and I am just as certain kids of all races played baseball hoping one day to be called “The Man.” Congratulations to all of today’s award recipients and thank you for your contributions to our great nation. Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!