A few years ago I found myself writing that Stan Musial embodied the six-degrees-of-separation history of baseball – signed by the Cardinals of Branch Rickey, a man of the Nineteenth Century, and a teammate of Bob Gibson and Curt Flood and Bill White, stars of the Sixties.
Musial, who died on Jan. 20 of this year, is still current in many ways.
On Wednesday, a painting of Stan the Man was to be unveiled at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis, a few hours before his Cardinals were to open the World Series in Boston.
Boston is part of the karma. Musial played his last World Series against the Red Sox in 1946 – what I consider one of the great Series in history for the postwar presence of so many veterans, including Musial and Ted Williams – and in Musial’s only year as general manager, the Cardinals won the 1967 World Series over the Red Sox.
The Man runs right through the center of baseball. And get this, Tim McCarver, the eager puppy of a catcher who was housebroken by Musial and Gibson and others in the early 60s, is calling his last games for Fox this month.
McCarver adores Stan the Man. In the biography I wrote in 2011, Stan Musial: an American Life, McCarver told of the so-called lucky streak of Musial’s life – the embarrassed giggle, the winning hands at poker, the .331 batting average. Never underestimate Stan the Man, McCarver said.
This painting that will be displayed permanently at the M.A.C. is the first sports portrait among other distinguished Missourians. But Musial is wearing a suit, not the gaudy Cardinal uniform. His wife Lilllian commissioned the great portrait artist Robert Templeton to come to their home in 1960 and paint her husband, still playing ball, but already preparing for his continuing career in the restaurant business. Lil, who died in May of 2012, wanted to depict her husband as a man of dignity. The portrait hung in their home until they both passed, and now it will be seen downtown.
Another Musial sighting: his baseball collection -- the uniforms and scorecards and other mementos – are up for sale via the Heritage Auction site Nov. 9-11. Needless to say, the surge to the World Series by the Cardinals – with the No. 6 memorial patches on their uniforms -- cannot help but bring Musial closer to the public eye this month.
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One more thing about this World Series: these two teams are not there by accident. Both of them have enlightened ownerships that have dominated this past decade. The Red Sox of John Henry and associates retooled and returned to the Series this year. The Cardinals, operated conservatively by the DeWitt family, keep winning with sound new waves of players. The smartest thing the Cardinals did was not to match the Angels’ offer for Albert Pujols. As Branch Rickey used to say: Better a year too soon than a year too late. In these high-stakes times, that theory is more important than ever. These two teams deserve to be where they are. Red Sox-Cardinals. The last World Series for The Kid and the Man, but in that grand baseball way, seeming like just yesterday.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.