We lost a lot of luminaries from the world of sports this year, the biggest probably being Stan Musial.
If you never saw Musial play baseball during his long career (1941-44; 1946-63) with the St. Louis Cardinals, even if somehow you never heard of him, you've still got to admit he had one of the coolest nicknames of all time: The Man.
The fact that he consistently appeared to be gracious and humble, never blew his own horn or had a negative word about anyone only magnified that nickname, underscored what a real man should be.
And it only follows that of course he didn't bestow such a nickname on himself. Way too much class for that.
But the really beautiful part of how Stan became The Man is that neither his teammates nor Cardinals fans gave him The Man moniker.
Legend has it that it was a fan of an opposing team, a Dodgers loyalist, no less, who put his partisanship aside and simply appreciated how Musial used his ability to torment Brooklyn's beloved Bums. And the nickname caught on.
Of course, as a ballplayer, Musial backed it up, was in fact The Man.
Many of his numbers compare favorably with baseball immortals far more colorful, far more famous, or infamous. Let's not overdose on statistics, but check this out: Over his 22-year career, Musial averaged 104 runs, 194 hits, 39 doubles, 25 homers, 104 runs batted in and batted .331 with a .417 on-base percentage.
Sure, Musial got his glowing eulogies when he died last January, at 92. But it seems right, in recalling the year's sports obituaries as we close out 2013, to remember Stan The Man Musial one more time.
Three more names on the list of sports deaths this year — each a variation of a champion — will grab the attention of boxing aficionados.
When Emile Griffith died in August at age 75, he was remembered, and probably rightly so, mostly for the vicious knockout that put Benny "Kid" Paret into a fatal coma in 1962.
Because Griffith's fury in that fight allegedly came from a pre-fight homosexual slur by Paret, and because Griffith apparently never quite came to terms with his sexuality (the documentary "Ring of Fire" is a must-see), Griffith's remarkable career beyond the tragic Paret bout is often overlooked or underrated.
The man was a welterweight and middleweight champion. As a late replacement, Griffith, at the age of 38, nearly won a junior middleweight title, too. But the majority decision in Berlin went to hometown favorite Eckhard Dagge.
Griffith counted wins over Dick Tiger, Luis Rodriguez and Nino Benvenuti among his 85 victories.
He ducked no one, giving Carlos Monzon and Vito Antuofermo tough fights. He was stopped only twice in 111 fights.
In remembering Emile Griffith one more time, we should remember him as more than a participant in a tragedy.
When Ken Norton Sr. died in September at the age of 70, he was remembered chiefly as one of the few to have defeated Muhammad Ali, which he did in 1973 as an underdog and virtual unknown, even breaking Ali's jaw while winning a split decision.
But in looking back at Norton one more time, let's recall his most electrifying fight, his 15-round split-decision loss to Larry Holmes in a 1978 title fight, one that oddly is rarely listed any longer as one of the heavyweight division's all-time greatest but one that certainly remains exactly that.