By Miranda Startare
On a beautiful sunny day overlooking the town that bore him, Donora residents and others from throughout the Mon Valley and beyond gathered to rename the Donora-Monessen Bridge in honor of a local living legend and baseball great – Stan Musial.
The newly-rehabilitated bridge now holds the name Stan “The Man” Musial Bridge as fitting tribute to a man who made more than 3,600 hits, led or shared 29 national records, received 3 MVP awards, was named to the National League All-Star Team 24 times, played on 3 World Series Championship teams, and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
As impressive as his baseball career was, which spanned 22 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, it is Stan Musial “The Man” that resonates so deeply with those who know him. Without exception, everyone who spoke at the May 4, 2012 renaming ceremony spoke of Mr. Musial’s stellar character.
Donora Mayor John Lignelli, who spearheaded the drive to rename the bridge for years, addressed the large crowd, saying how honored he was to be part of the event and so pleased it was finally happening. Mayor Lignelli read a framed resolution sent by the National Baseball Hall of Fame that describes Stan Musial as “among the greatest players in the history of our great national pastime.”
A Congressional Certificate of Honor from the office of Congressman Mark Critz was also read at the ceremony, citing the bridge renaming as a “fitting tribute” to a man that “literally and symbolically links people as he did.”
Wayne Stewart, a 1969 Donora High School graduate and author of 29 books, including the biography, Stan the Man: Life and Times of Stan Musial, spoke of Mr. Musial’s achievements at the ceremony. In researching for the book, Mr. Stewart learned of the respect Mr. Musial received on and off the field. According to those he interviewed, Stan is “as good a person as he was a player – the real deal.”
Steve Russell, Chairman of the Mon Valley Sports Hall of Fame, spoke of Mr. Musial’s exemplary qualities before, during, and after his involvement in professional sports. Stan’s modesty, perpetual smile, and dedication to his game made him an exceptional player. He was, according to Mr. Russell, “everyone’s favorite – man, manager, or player.”
Many local dignitaries were present, some speaking at the ceremony. Retired Sen. Barry Stout, who first introduced legislation in 2010 to rename the bridge, thanked Sen. Tim Solobay who took over Stout’s seat when he retired, for introducing the legislation that ultimately passed in 2011. Stout also thanked State Rep. Peter J. Daley and Donora Mayor John Lignelli for helping to make this possible.
The dedication was marked with sadness, however, as Senator Tim Solobay announced that Stan’s wife of nearly 72 years and high school sweetheart, Lillian, had died one day before the ceremony. Stan was not able to be present at the ceremony due to his wife’s illness leading up to her passing. The family requested that the event continue as planned, with some of Stan’s family members in attendance. Stan’s nephew, Ron Wagner, accepted the resolution, certificate of honor, and other honorary awards on behalf of Mr. Musial. Mr. Wagner will travel to St. Louis to deliver the awards to Stan personally.
Stan “The Man” will always be a hometown hero to those who know him and remember his accomplishments. Now with a bridge bearing his name, his legacy will stretch into future generations.