Belle Vernon Area coach Palm remembers great-uncle Musial
The legacy of Stan Musial has affected Belle Vernon Area baseball coach Dan Palm more than most locals involved in the game.
That's because, as Palm revealed Sunday, Musial was his great-uncle.
“He married my grandmother's sister (Lilly Lubash),” Palm said. “It was one of the main reasons I got into baseball and why I've always taken it so seriously. I didn't want people to know, but being from a baseball family, it was always in the back of mind as a reason to be successful.”
Musial, who ranks as one of Major League Baseball's all-time greatest hitters, died Saturday in Ladue, Mo., at the age of 92. Musial was born and raised in Donora and his name still reverberated in local baseball decades after his retirement in 1963.
“Growing up and playing baseball in Donora, that aura was always there,” Palm said. “It's hard not to feel that when you're playing on fields named after him.”
Palm said he wasn't necessarily close with the Musials, but they would often converse during family reunions. Palm's personal highlight with his uncle came in 2006, when Musial flew him out to St. Louis to take in a Pirates-Cardinals game. It was the last season for old Busch Stadium.
“He put us up in a private hotel called the St. Louis Sportsmen's Club. It was neat to see how popular he was out there,” Palm said. “We went out to eat and we couldn't get through dinner 10 minutes without someone asking for an autograph or coming up and telling him, ‘You were my dad's favorite player.'
“It was moving to see how revered he was, and that's when Albert Pujols was still playing (for the Cardinals). He was still ‘The Man' out there.”
With high school baseball lagging nowadays in Western Pennsylvania, Palm admitted he feels some pressure to carry on the legacy of Musial – including his sparkling reputation.
“That's the pride I take in my program … I'm proud we've gotten better and part of what drives me is being from a baseball family,” Palm said. “I'm not only proud of the statistics he produced that match up with the best of all time, but of the great person he was, and that goes for my Aunt Lil too. She was always behind the scenes, but she was his rock … always just a wonderful lady.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2635.