By Doug Gorman
Stan Langley, 43, of Hampton, is headed to the Braves' game after winning the Clayton News Daily's on-line baseball trivia contest.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control employee gets four, field-level tickets and a parking pass to Sunday's Braves-Dodgers game at Turner Field.
Langley answered seven -- of eight -- questions correctly, and then was awarded the tickets after his tie-breaking essay about former St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial was declared the best of the six entries.
Langley had some inspiration behind his winning Musial composition: "My dad was the greatest man that ever lived, and he thought enough of Stan Musial to name me after him. When my Dad died, the one thing I held onto was the times we had watching ball games together. Stan Musial was his hero, so that was good enough for me," Langley wrote in the last paragraph of his essay.
Langley, a long-time coach, has passed on his love of baseball to his son, Preston, an 11-year-old, middle school student and multi-sport athlete at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy.
It was Preston who urged his father to play the on-line trivia game every day.
"He was the one that got me going on this," Langley said. "He was like 'We got to do this, Dad.' He would call me at work to make sure I had played."
Now Preston and his dad, along with Stan's brother, Ted, and perhaps, Stan's daughter, Elizabeth, a cheerleader at ELCA, will get a bird's-eye view of the action as the Braves try to see if they can cool off the National League West Division-leading Dodgers.
"I got my love of sports from my dad," Langley said. "He lived in Alabama, but he was a Cardinals' fan. He never forced sports on me, it just sort of came naturally. It was our bonding time. He was a Cardinals fan because of Stan Musial. I think he was watching a Cardinals' game the day I was born."
Langley almost penned his essay about another all-time baseball great, former Atlanta slugger, Hank Aaron, but after talking to his mom, knew he had to write about Musial as a tribute to his late father, Herbert.
"One of my last memories with him was sitting there right before he went to hospice and he was in and out of a coma,"Langley said. "We would be watching baseball and he would pop up and start arguing about the calls, and all of a sudden, he would slip back into his coma.
"So, we shared a love of sports until the day he died. Now, my son is the same way. Ever since he was a baby. We would put him in a bouncy seat in front of the television and he was happy as long as sports was on."
Going to the Braves game will be nothing new for the lifelong Braves' fan. "I suffered through the Braves in the 1970s and '80s like everybody else," he said.
Despite some awful years in those two decades, Langley called pitcher Phil Niekro and Dale Murphy his two favorite Braves.
He said, sometimes, it is hard for his young son to understand there was a time when the Braves were really bad. "Preston doesn't remember when the Braves were usually in last place, or near the bottom. They have never been bad in his lifetime. He doesn't remember they used to lose 100 games a year."
On Sunday, Langley said, his family will get to the ballpark early, and try to snag a foul ball during batting practice. That is a Langley family tradition, whenever they go to a Braves game.
Once the game starts, Langley will no doubt think about his father, the man who influenced him to be a baseball fan. The man who inspired him to write a winning essay about another man named Stan, the player, who -- in at least Lagley's opinion -- is the greatest to ever play the game.
Baseball Trivia Essays
Editor's note: At the end of the newspaper's recent baseball trivia contest, there were seven contestants tied for the lead, which triggered a tie-breaker round. The tie-breaker was in the form of an essay, with the topic: Who is the greatest baseball player who ever lived -- and why? Several of the essays were good, but the following two were really good, and made it difficult for our editors to pick a winner. In the end, the edge went to Stan Langley. See what you think.
Jonesboro resident, Robert Wuerstlin's essay
Who is the Greatest Ballplayer of all time? Tough question. I first thought, "This is easy. Gotta be a Yankee!" I was born and raised in N.Y.C. -- and following the Bronx Bombers all my life -- there were a lot of players to choose from. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, the list is endless.
But then, I thought of a ballplayer who encompassed greatness not only on the field, but also displayed greatness off the field. And the kicker is that he played his whole career for the hated Boston Red Sox, enemy of all Yankee fans. Of course, it has to be Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters of all time.
Not only did the "Splendid Splinter," as he was called by his adoring fans, retire 3rd on the list of all time home-run hitters, he is the last man to hit .400.
But that is not why I admire his greatness. Ted served 5 years in the U.S. Marines, interrupting his career twice during his 21 seasons. He fought courageously as a fighter pilot, flying numerous missions during World War II and the Korean War. As a famous ballplayer, he could have represented our country playing baseball on a service team, signing autographs, etc., but he chose to be involved in the action. Take five years away from any ballplayer during his "prime" and his career totals would be greatly reduced.
I have read that Ted wasn't exactly "fan-friendly." I do not believe this should discredit him as a ballplayer. What should be remembered is all the thrills he gave his fans, yes, even Yankee fans, and all the sacrifices he gave to his country!
Hampton resident, Stan Langley's essay
When trying to determine the greatest baseball player of all time, you can make a case for dozens of people. You could make a case for Ruth, Aaron, Mays or any of the past greats. You could also make a case for some of today's players, but I think you have to look at the whole package, not just who won the most games, or hit the most home runs.
The player I feel is the best of all time is Stan Musial. He does have impressive statistics like the other greats. He is 3rd all-time in doubles, 4th all-time in hits, 6th all-time in RBI's, and in the top twenty all-time in almost every category. He is also tied with Aaron and Mays with the most all-star selections (24).
The numbers speak volumes of his ability on the field. However, more important than his numbers is that he did it in an era before high contracts, agents, and steroids. He played during a time when you played for the love of the game. He played the game was the way it should be played by everyone: Give 100 percent of your effort in everything you do. He had all this success while being a role model to his fans. He showed character on the field every time he played. He played almost a quarter of a century and was never thrown out of a game. To me, that is his greatest stat of all.
My dad was the greatest man that ever lived, and he thought enough of Stan Musial to name me after him. When my dad died, the one thing I held onto was the times we had watching ballgames together.
Stan Musial was his hero, so that is good enough for me.