The King and The Man. The nicknames alone reflect the stature golfer Arnold Palmer and the Cardinals’ Stan Musial have in the sports world.
Both hailed from western Pennsylvania. Both were champions who represented the best in their professions.
Both were special athletes who deeply appreciated their fans and never wavered in connecting with them.
Each legend respected and enjoyed the other.
In one of his last major honors in a life filled with significant tributes, Palmer received the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award in December 2015.
Palmer, 87, died Sept. 25, 2016. His passing occurred three years after Musial, 92, died on Jan. 19, 2013.
Best of class
Musial was born in Donora, Pa. Palmer was a native of Latrobe, Pa. Their hometowns are located about 35 miles from one another, just south of Pittsburgh.
In November 1962, when Musial was a year away from retiring as a player and Palmer was in his prime, Esquire magazine selected four athletes of the time that it regarded as guaranteed for immortality. They were: Palmer, Musial, football’s Jim Brown and tennis’ Pancho Gonzales.
A year later, in October 1963, the newly created Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame elected its inaugural class. Three came from the western Pennsylvania chapter: Palmer, Musial and baseball’s Pie Traynor.
At the induction dinner in Philadelphia on Dec. 8, 1963, Musial told the audience, “Pennsylvania can be proud of all its athletes.”
That afternoon, Musial had visited a Philadelphia hospital to present one of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame inductees, Hans Lobert, who had undergone surgery, a plaque, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Before the induction dinner, Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News asked Musial, who had retired as a player after the 1963 season, about the possibility of making a comeback in 1964.
A playful, good-natured Musial replied, “I can’t come back. It would take me too long to give the plaques back. Heck, it would take me two months at least.”
Asked how he was adjusting to his new role as a Cardinals vice president, Musial said, “I went out to the (baseball) winter meetings on the West Coast. Boy, executives have it soft. I told them if I had known it was like this, I’d have retired five years ago.”
In July 1970, Palmer was selected athlete of the decade (1960-70) by the Associated Press. A testimonial dinner was planned for July 21 at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. The most prominent figure among the 800 guests was Musial.
“I am grateful that you would invite me to help honor Arnie,” Musial said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In my opinion, there is no greater golfer and finer man anywhere than Arnold Palmer.”
Throughout the years, Palmer and Musial continued their friendship. They appeared together at celebrity charity golf events. In 1978, during the PGA Championship at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh, Musial visited with Palmer as his guest in the clubhouse.
Life like Stan
The Musial Awards celebrate sportsmanship in North America. The signature award is the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award. Joe Torre was the first recipient in 2014. Palmer was the second recipient.
After needing assistance from two aides to walk onto the stage at the Peabody Opera House in downtown St. Louis to accept the award, Palmer was seated and told the crowd that Musial was “one of the greatest people I ever knew.”
“If every person in the world lived their life like Stan Musial did his, you could all walk away proud,” Palmer said. Video