Stan Musial, gone but not forgotten. - Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
The devastating loss in Baltimore and St. Louis is our loss, too
We use the term disparagingly on this site, and with some frequency, but what does it really mean?
We may think it means that casual fans aren't knowledgeable about advanced statistical analysis. Casual fans think Batting Average is the most important hitting statistic; Wins are crucial in determining the best starting pitchers; and WAR is something that opposing armies do.
We may think casual fans inhabit other places. They're over there posting on a newspaper site, or getting into flame wars on the official team site, and you can tell who they are by the general tone of what they say.
We may think casual fans are just a bunch of front-runners. It the Astros aren't winning, then casual fans couldn't care less about what's going on. For the casual fan, the minor leagues don't exist. "George Springer? Carlos Correa? Who are they?"
To me, the casual fan is all those things, but there's something more that defines him: The casual fan thinks baseball exists in a vacuum, and doesn't care about what goes on outside the 610 Loop.
And that, in my roundabout way, leads me to why we care about the passing of Earl Weaver and Stan Musial.
The Earl of Baltimore and Stan the Man didn't have much to do with Houston, but they had everything to do with baseball.
Oh, Weaver once played for the Houston Buffs, and Musial played against the Colt .45s as he finished out his career in 1962-63, but certainly that's not why we care.
Weaver was a statistical guru before sabermetrics were cool, and Musial was one of the best hitters the game has ever known. And while those are a couple of good reasons to care about them, that's still not quite it.
We care (or should) because we are not casual fans. We care because we have awareness that baseball is bigger than the Astros, bigger than the city of Houston, and even bigger than the great state of Texas.
Even if we never saw Weaver throw a tantrum, never saw Musial rocket a double off the wall, we recognize them as colorful, tightly woven threads in the tapestry of baseball, a sport that honors its history and traditions like no other. Their two names — great names — are no longer part of our baseball present, only part of our baseball past.
And the tapestry? It just keeps growing, and as we age, we tend to throw it around our shoulders a little more to keep warm, or maybe use a corner of it to dab at a tear.
One day, I promise you, younger baseball legends will die, and it will be you marveling at the casual fans who don't seem to care. You'll say to yourself, "Holy crap, these people are acting like they don't even know who Mike Trout was!"
But you'll care, won't you? Because you're a true baseball fan, and there's nothing casual about that.