The Stan Musial Society

OH, those lovely days of summer - when baseballs are flying in the air and we fans can feel good when our favorite team wins. The other day Frank Mankiewicz called to say he had secured some wonderful box seats for an upcoming game in Philadelphia when our beloved St. Louis Cardinals would be playing the Phillies. I told him I would dearly love to go but it was taking place on our wedding anniversary. My wife, who was nearby, asked: ``What's that about?'' I told her. ``Let's go!'' she said.

A week later we joined about 20 of the charter members of the recently formed Washington fan club of the Cardinals on the Metro to Philadelphia. We call ourselves ``The Stan Musial Society.''

So it was that on a hot afternoon with rain threatening but never quite arriving that I plied my bride of 47 years with hot dogs splashed with yellow mustard (never the brown kind!) and peanuts. I even sprung for ice cream.

But there was also a surprise anniversary cake that Mankiewicz and the co-founder of our society, Vic Gold, had supplied. Mankiewicz was press secretary for two presidential candidates, Robert Kennedy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972. And during his service as press secretary to Barry Goldwater in 1964, Vic Gold won lasting fame among reporters for the masterful way he moved traffic aside to get the press bus through heavy crowds.

Mankiewicz also achieved a lasting place in memory for his calm performance after the shooting of Robert Kennedy. Remember Frank as he stood on the hood of that automobile only moments after the bullets were fired and Kennedy had fallen? It was he who gave the world, watching on TV, its first knowledge of Kennedy's condition and of what had happened and how it had happened.

I found out in the 1972 campaign that I had a decided edge over other reporters on the McGovern campaign plane. Mankiewicz, who really was Mr. McGovern's top advisor on just about everything, had discovered that we were both long-time Cardinal fans. Frank and I loved to try to stump each other with odd bits of knowledge about our team.

Once my editor called minutes before deadline and asked me to try to get some very important information about McGovern's plans. I called Mankiewicz's office. His secretary said that Frank was writing a McGovern speech on a deadline and that he had issued orders that he not be disturbed. ``He's locked his door,'' she said.

I asked if the secretary could write something down. ``Who,'' I dictated to her, ``was the nephew of Buster Keaton who played outfield for the Cardinals in the late 1920s?'' Then I asked her to sign my name to the note and shove it under Frank's door.

I hung up and started to count. Before I got to 20 the phone rang and I heard Frank shouting: ``Who was it? Who was it?'' Because of his own Hollywood connection (Frank's father wrote the script for ``Citizen Kane''), he should have known it was Ernie Orsatti. Mankiewicz quickly gave me the information I wanted.

Here I am compelled to report that the Phillies, after losing a double-header to the Cards the night before, walloped us, 11 to 1.

But we all had learned as youngsters that real baseball fans must learn to cope with adversity. So we laughed and kidded through the game, and as we departed we made plans for another Cards-Phillies game in September.

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