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La Russa calls Musial the 'best that you can be'

ST. LOUIS -- Describing Stan Musial as "the best that you can be as a person and a player," former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took time out of his appearance at the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up on Sunday to share some personal anecdotes from his time spent with the Cardinals legend, who died on Saturday at the age of 92.

"Most of it was just the way he treated people, to see the respect he gave, the courtesy, the care, the sense of humor," La Russa said of Musial's legacy. "That's how he was with everybody. And you think, 'I should be more like that.'"

La Russa learned of Musial's passing while at the annual "Stars to the Rescue" benefit he organizes as a fundraiser for his Animal Rescue Foundation. During an intermission in the program, La Russa, along with former Cardinal Mike Shannon, paid tribute to No. 6.

During the 16 seasons he managed in St. Louis, La Russa developed a personal relationship with Musial, who, when visiting the ballpark for various occasions, would often come into the manager's office to chat. La Russa had heard stories about Musial long before they ever met. Those came from his father, Anthony, when the two would drive to Spring Training games near their home in Tampa, Fla.

That's why La Russa took so much satisfaction in putting Musial on the phone to talk with his father so many years later.

A ball Musial signed for La Russa remains on display in his home, alongside one signed by another Cardinals great -- Red Schoendienst. La Russa said he last saw Musial during a visit to St. Louis during the 2012 season.

La Russa also spoke about the opportunity he had to introduce Musial, a 24-time All-Star and first-ballot Hall of Famer, to several friends outside of the organization. He said he once facilitated Musial's appearance at an Eagles concert, which was highlighted by Musial taking the stage to play his harmonica.

There was also an Opening Day meeting he coordinated between Musial and lawyer/author John Grisham. Having invited Grisham to the game, La Russa said he left Grisham and Grisham's father alone to chat baseball with Musial before the game. During a recent conversation with La Russa, Grisham relayed the significance of that sit-down.

As La Russa recalled: "[Grisham] told me a couple months ago that as they left the ballpark, his dad said: 'My life is complete. I just met Stan Musial.'"