SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy welcomed the disruption of his concentration as he awaited Game 4 of the National League Championship Series last Oct. 18.
A St. Louis club official entered Bochy's office in the Busch Stadium visitors' clubhouse and informed him that Stan Musial, who is to the Cardinals what Willie Mays is to the Giants, would be honored before the game. Musial would be driven around the warning track in a golf cart, enabling fans everywhere in the ballpark to shower cheers upon "The Man," who was a month away from turning 92.
The official also had a surprise for Bochy from Musial himself.
"He said if you'd like, he'd like to say hello to you," Bochy said. "Obviously, I was not going to miss that opportunity."
Thus, before all of the Giants had emerged from the clubhouse, Bochy perched on the dugout's top step, eagerly anticipating Musial's arrival. Sure enough, as Musial was transported around the field to ringing applause, the golf cart stopped in front of Bochy to allow him and the baseball legend to exchange pleasantries.
This encounter gave Bochy an enduring final memory of Musial, who died Jan. 19. A private funeral service will be held Saturday for Musial, followed by a processional to Busch Stadium.
As Bochy's interest in baseball grew during his youth, his father, Gus, regaled him with tales of Musial's greatness. Bochy ultimately learned that performance accounted for only part of Musial's popularity.
"He's one of the most revered players ever, and it's not just about his numbers," Bochy said. "It's about who he is, the man that he is. Anybody who's met Stan Musial will say the same thing. He's what you want to be. Just a gentleman with a great sense of humor."
While managing the San Diego Padres, Bochy met Musial about 10 years ago as the latter taped a television feature with Tony Gwynn. Gwynn was in the process of winning eight National League batting titles, eclipsing Musial's seven. Bochy proudly posed for a photograph with Musial. The shot hangs in Bochy's office at his San Diego-area home; the frame might as well be bolted into the wall.
"It will always be there," Bochy vowed.
Musial's aura spanned the continent, as the Giants' move from New York to San Francisco proved. During their 1958 inaugural season out west, they drew bigger crowds for Cardinals games than for the archrival Dodgers. After all, everybody wanted to see Musial. Average paid attendance at Seals Stadium for a date with the Cardinals was 19,203. The corresponding figure for the Dodgers was 18,182.
Among the Musial acolytes who flocked to Seals Stadium was a teenager from Selma, Calif., named Robert Joseph Cox. He gained fame as Bobby Cox, whose deeds as manager of the Atlanta Braves are likely to earn him a place in baseball's Hall of Fame alongside Musial.
A rapt Cox watched every move Musial made -- or didn't make.
"I know he didn't take batting practice that day," Cox told a couple of San Francisco-based reporters in 2010. But, Cox added, "I didn't care."