(KMOV.com) -- Almost from the day he arrived on the sports scene in St. Louis, Stan Musial was this town’s favorite athlete.
He had mild competition from NBA Hall of Famer Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. The old football Cardinals had some very popular players like Jackie Smith and Larry Wilson, but nobody approached the superstar status of Stan the Man.
Musials’ popularity never wavered, only increased, right up until the time of his death this past January. He was a one of a kind, and will likely always be considered St. Louis’ greatest and most beloved athlete
Now that Musial is gone, who steps into the role as St. Louis’ favorite living athlete? I believe there are three obvious candidates; Ozzie Smith of the Cardinals, Kurt Warner of the Rams, Brett Hull of the Blues.
Ozzie and Hull are already Hall of Famers in their sport, Warner likely will be in a couple of years. Warner may not have put up the career numbers that the Wizard and the Golden Brett did, and never got the catchy nickname either, but his popularity remains unquestioned.
Old timers might add the name of Bob Gibson to the list. Marshall Faulk might get some votes. Dan Dierdorf deserves some recognition. Maybe Bernie Federko. Albert Pujols will probably never get on the list for consideration, even after his retirement. It seems to me this is a three horse race between Ozzie, Hull and Warner.
It’d be a cop out to call it, in the words of Tony La Russa, a “tie for first”. If I had to cast a vote I think I’d give it to Brett Hull.
He could make a strong argument for being one of the top 20 players in the history of his sport. As great as Smith and Warner were they wouldn’t be considered among the top 20 greatest in the history of baseball or football.
That’s obviously not the only criteria for being the most popular ex-athlete in a city, but in my opinion Hull’s charisma and larger than life personality put him over the top.