ST. LOUIS She was the woman behind the Man. Many labels fit Lillian Lil Musial, wife of the greatest St. Louis Cardinal of all time: Compassionate, caring, a kind soul who taught others to love and live life.
Above all, though, she was Stan Musials biggest fan. It was a devotion that lasted until her death Thursday night at the age of 91 in her Ladue, Mo., home. Her husband was by her side. They were married for 71 years.
She always wanted him to get better or keep doing better, Brian Schwarze, the Musials grandson, told FOXSports.com. She knew when to turn it on with him. It was uncanny how close they really were.
Lil was born in 1920 as one of eight kids to Sam and Anna Labash. Her connection with Stan began when she met the future Hall of Fame player after she attended a Donora (Pa.) Zincs game with her father in 1934. There, she saw 15-year-old Stan pitch for the semi-professional team. She liked his curly brown hair. The greatness he achieved in 22 seasons with the Cardinals was little more than a distant dream.
They became close. They married in May 1940, and Lil witnessed history.
She saw many milestones. She saw Stan's 3,630 hits, his 1,951 RBI and his 475 home runs during his time with the only franchise he knew in the major leagues. She saw his passion that made him become the sports perfect warrior and perfect knight, terms coined by then-Major League Baseball commissioner Ford Frick at Stans retirement ceremony on Sept. 29, 1963.
She saw her husband become a legend in a city that adored him. Through it all, they were bound by love.
The way they interacted they complemented each other so well, Schwarze said.
The bond created memories, of course, and it gave Stan the comfort he needed to grow as a man and professional. During her husband's playing days, Lil preferred to stay in the background. She supported him during a career that produced 24 All-Star Game appearances, seven National League batting titles and three World Series championships. She became his rock.
Lil also was present for emotional support. She had a skill of knowing when Stan needed a key hit to break from a mental slump. It was an acute awareness that develops with deep trust.
There were moments when Lil said, Its time for a double, when watching her husband approach home plate. And there were times when thats exactly what Stan accomplished.
Outside baseball, Lil earned a reputation as a calming influence and a strong mother for the couples four kids. Later, she was introduced to 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. The First Lady of the St. Louis Cardinals became so much more: She was an adoring caregiver, an admired life partner.
She was quite a grandmother, Schwarze said. Very, very special person. Nothing quite like seeing the two of them (her and Stan) even all the way to the end how much they loved each other. You just dont see that anymore (almost) 72 years of marriage. Its unbelievable in itself that they still loved each other until the end, until death do them part. That just doesnt happen anymore.
In later years, Lil became known for selfless efforts. She was involved with St. Louis Pinch Hitters, a group that raised money for charity through baseball. She also helped with causes that aided homeless, runaway girls through the Covenant House of Missouri.
Behind each man, even legends, is a woman of conviction and compassion. Stans stayed close until the end.
The laughs we had together Ill always remember her laugh, Schwarze said. She had a great laugh.