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'The Man' big hitter on cancer

Saturday, August 28, 2004
Courier & Press staff writer

In typical self-deprecating fashion, living legend Stan "The Man" Musial blames himself for getting prostate cancer.

After his personal physician died, the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame outfielder/first baseman waited a few years before getting a checkup, where he received the bad news. If he had gone to the doctor earlier, he believes his cancer could have been avoided. He urges men to get a checkup in their 50s, because if they wait too long it could prove fatal.

Musial was diagnosed in 1989, but there was no recurrence and he's still going strong at 83 years old. During a news conference Friday at Bosse Field, he appeared a bit weak, but hadn't lost his wit.

"I have a bad knee," Musial said. "How I got a bad knee is that I hit too many triples. I should have hit more homers like Mark McGwire and Hank Aaron."

He noted that fellow St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson is another prostate cancer survIvor.

"He was one of the greatest Cardinals pitchers of all time," Musial said of Gibson, who was in Evansville to speak on the subject two years ago.

In American men, prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death. Prostate cancer strikes one in six men during their lifetime.

At the time of his retirement in 1963, Musial held two major league records and six other National League marks. In contrast to many of today's millionaire athletes, he remains as humble as they come.

"I've always felt you should treat people like you would like to be treated," Musial said.

He went on to say it was such a nice news conference, he wanted to give everybody an extra blessing, playfully pretending to spray his bottled water around as if it was a second baptism.

Musial was as surprised as anybody that the 2004 Cardinals went from a team predicted to finish third or fourth in the National League Central to runaway leaders. Matt Morris and Woody Williams are the only remaining starting pitchers from last season's third-place finishers, but general manager Walt Jocketty has done an admirable job filling in the gaps, Musial said.

He pointed to the great trades Jocketty has made the past few years, including the acquisition of third baseman Scott Rolen of Jasper, Ind., in 2002.

"One of your own guys, Scott Rolen, is having a fantastic year," Musial said. "He is one of the greatest third basemen I've ever seen."

He said the Cardinals are playing like they can't be beaten.

"They have that great Cardinai spirit and they play together," Musial said.

Despite the renovations at Busch Stadium since the mid-1990s, it is scheduled to give way to a new ballpark in April of 2006. Musial tried his best to toe the company line.

"Busch Stadium is a beautiful stadium, but it's (38) years old and the owners decided to go on and build a new ballpark," Musial said. "It's amazing how many new ballparks are being built."

While breast cancer receives national attention, prostate cancer lurks in the background.

"I think we could do more to spread the word around," said Musial, agreeing that some men are too stubborn to get a checkup.

"They should get an exam at least when they are 50 years old," he said, "Through the years, a lot of men didn't get an exam until they were 60."

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