Tom Ashley noticed a man standing alone close to “The Man.”
“The Man” was Ashley’s grandfather, Stan Musial.
The man was Albert Pujols.
“At first, I did not know who it was,” Ashley mentioned. “Pujols was standing by himself, subsequent to my grandfather, for minutes — 10-Quarter-hour.”
It was January of 2013. The biggest Cardinal of this technology paid his respects to the biggest Cardinal.
And as Pujols slowly walked away from the casket, Ashley approached him and launched himself.
Ashley’s mom is Stan’s daughter, Gerry. Ashley’s childhood recollections are frozen in the warmth — summertime at grandpa’s residence in Ladue.
“He was simply a nice, nice grandfather anyway, with none of the baseball stuff, you realize?” mentioned Ashley, now 57 and dwelling close to Tucson, Arizona. “When I went to go to him, I may simply hang around with him and chat and watch the Cardinals sport. That’s the place he was most comfy, hanging out with his grandkids. He may very well be out with the followers and the crowds and all that, however I truthfully assume that he was simply so relaxed round household.”
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A gracious Pujols spoke gently to Ashley. They talked about Stan and all the traits that made him the definition of a man. Ashley introduced up the ill-fated advert marketing campaign from Los Angeles, the place Pujols went to play, starting in 2012. The Angels tried to advertise him on billboards as “El Hombre,” Spanish for “The Man.” Pujols nixed the marketing campaign.
“I mentioned, ‘Albert, I simply needed to thanks, as half of the household,'” Ashley mentioned not too long ago by cellphone. “I’m tearing up now, truly. He checked out me and he mentioned, ‘Tom, look, there was just one ‘Stan The Man.’ And I used to be by no means going to make use of his title.'”
At the wake, Ashley and Pujols stood simply a few ft from the open casket, however Ashley could not look.
“I used to be nervous,” Ashley mentioned. “I haven’t got a lot of expertise with being round the useless. Especially my grandfather. … I feel I used to be additionally overwhelmed.
“I used to be going to stroll over to have a look at my grandfather for the first time. I mentioned to Albert, ‘I’m actually nervous.’ And so, Albert walked me over there.
“We simply stood in entrance of my grandfather mendacity there. And so, it was a very nice second as a result of I actually wanted some assist at the time. And he was proper there. Albert And I by no means met him earlier than.”
It was stunning. It was from the coronary heart. It was one thing Stan would’ve achieved.
“With the stars, what makes them nice human beings is what they do when the crowds aren’t there,” Ashley mentioned. “I used to be very proud of every little thing that my grandfather did, and his kindness. And everybody who was with him was smiling, and he would reduce up jokes.”
The generosity of Pujols, from serving to a man at his grandfather’s funeral, to donating numerous time and cash to charitable work, is a component of the legend’s legend. Pujols did not simply begin a charity to learn youngsters with Down syndrome; he befriended the youngsters, empowered the youngsters. He hosted an annual basketball sport, a promenade and a day at Busch Stadium.
And in his homeland of the Dominican Republic, Pujols does not simply give cash. He actually goes into the poorest areas and gives assets and hope.
He is a proud recipient of the Robert Clemente Award.
And identical to he honors Clemente with his personal efforts, Pujols honors Musial with his personal play. Pujols takes pleasure in sporting the birds on the bat. He’s humbled that many of his statistics and accomplishments are beside Musial’s. And his quantity and photograph can be subsequent to Musial on the left-field wall in the coming years.
“And that day, I simply met him and he was supporting me,” Ashley mentioned.
It’s been almost a decade since the funeral.
What prompted or impressed Ashley to succeed in out to this newspaper and share this story?
“I simply had this particular second and I believed I needed extra individuals to find out about it,” he mentioned. “People already love Pujols, however I simply thought extra individuals ought to know what Pujols is basically like, you realize? And I do know that Albert’s manner into the information is like throughout proper now with 700 residence runs.”
Seven hundred. It’s proper there. Even if Pujols does not make it, he nonetheless has the fourth-most homers in baseball historical past. It’s an unique membership of the top-four sluggers — Pujols, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.
But right here in St. Louis, Pujols is in an unique membership of two. The Cardinals, of course, have a litany of icons. From Ozzie Smith to Bob Gibson, Lou Brock to Ted Simmons, Enos Slaughter to Red Schoendienst, Dizzy Dean to Yadier Molina.
But Pujols and Musial are in their very own stratosphere, each as ballplayers and males.