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Rubino: Gone in 2013, not forgotten: Three champs, one ‘Man’

  • (TOM GANNAM / Associated Press, 2011)

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.

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