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Stan Musial Receives Medal of Freedom

Stan Musial, Maya Angelou, George H.W. Bush and Others Receive Medal of Freedom
Stan "The Man" Musial Wearing Cardinal Red and a Medal of Freedom (AP)

(CBS/AP) St. Louis Cardinal legend Stan "The Man" Musial was one of 15 people to receive the Medal of Freedom from President Obama today. In a ceremony in the White House, the President awarded the Medal, the highest civilian honor in the country, to Musial as well as poet Maya Angelou, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and basketball great Bill Russell.

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President Obama called the recipients, "the best of who we are and who we aspire to be."

In the world of baseball, few lived up to that praise as much as Stan Musial. As a St. Louis Cardinal, Musial was a three-time World Champion and appeared in 24 All-Star Games. He retired after the 1963 season with a .331 batting average and 475 home runs. Of his 3,630 career hits, exactly half came at home and half on the road. This is in spite of the years he took off during World War II to serve in the Navy.

Musial, 90, wore his familiar Cardinals-red sports coat during the ceremony shown on St. Louis television and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website. He beamed as the president placed the medal around his neck.

Musial, a native of Donora, Pa., was signed by the Cardinals as a pitcher but converted to the outfield after a shoulder injury in the minor leagues. It worked out well.

He earned the nickname "The Man" in 1946, when Post-Dispatch sportswriter Bob Broeg heard fans at Ebbets Field welcome Musial to the plate by saying, "Here comes the man."

Musial was the general manager of the 1964 Cardinals that won the World Series in seven games over the New York Yankees. That victory came a year after his retirement from playing.

He has remained a beloved figure in St. Louis. In fact, it was a grassroots "Stand for Stan" campaign that helped convince the White House to honor Musial with the Medal of Freedom. The Cardinals promoted the idea through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and politicians quickly joined in letter-writing campaigns.

The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor awarded to civilians. The award is meant to recognize individuals who have made exceptional contributions to national security, world peace, or the culture as a whole. Only 257 Americans have ever received this honor.