ST. LOUIS - Stan Musial's fan base will get a couple of opportunities this week to say goodbye to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer, the team said Monday.
The Cardinals announced visitation, funeral and burial plans for Musial, who died Saturday at age 92 at his home in St. Louis County after several years of declining health.
A public visitation will be 2-8 p.m. Thursday at Cathedral Basilica, the elaborate Catholic church in St. Louis' Midtown area. A private funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the same cathedral. Immediately after the Mass, a funeral procession will travel to Busch Stadium where the family will lay a wreath at the base of the Musial statue that's in front of the ballpark.
The Cardinals will release the procession route later, a route that could draw thousands of fans given Musial's enormous popularity. A private burial is planned.
Three high-ranking Catholic leaders will officiate the Mass: New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, a longtime friend of the Musial family; St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson; and Bishop Richard Stika.
Musial was a seven-time National League batting champion and three-time MVP. He played 22 seasons, all with the Cardinals, and had a lifetime .331 batting average. His nickname was simply "The Man," and he retired from baseball in 1963.
But in the wide-ranging area of the country where the Cardinals are popular, he was just as beloved for his gentle nature and generous spirit.
After his death, former teammates recalled how Musial would often visit sick children in hospitals, even on road trips, never publicizing the visits. He happily gave out autographed cards - an idea his friend John Wayne suggested - and would shake hands and pose for pictures for hours after appearances. He was a joyous figure around St. Louis, often breaking out his harmonica for renditions of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
One posting on a Musial remembrance page on the Cardinals' website read, "You could have called him "The Man' just for the way he carried himself through life, even had he never hit a baseball."
Another read, "Stan Musial - a great man, a great ballplayer, and emblematic of the Greatest Generation."
Musial's death coincided with the "Winter Warmup" weekend, where several current and former Cardinals gathered at a downtown hotel for the annual autograph show and dinner.
Outfielder Carlos Beltran said it was difficult to think about an Opening Day without Musial circling the stadium in a golf cart, waving to adoring fans.
"It's going to be different, for sure - what he meant for baseball and what he meant to the city, the whole organization.
"It's a sad moment for baseball but we have to remember the legacy he left behind in this game," Beltran said.
Fans continued to make pilgrimages to the Musial statue Monday, leaving behind balloons, cards and other remembrances for the man once described as "baseball's perfect knight."
The statue first stood outside the old Busch Stadium and was moved to the new ballpark when it opened in 2006.