Despite spending the entire 1976 season in the minors, a 39 year-old Diego Segui received a 1977 Topps card wearing a gigantic fake batting helmet. That helmet, and Diego Segui, are not the subject of this article.
On the back of Diego Segui’s 1977 Topps baseball card is a cartoon drawing of a man holding a ball on the ground and a hat on his head. Both seem perfectly stationary without help, but the man is happy, so let’s not judge. The caption: “John Hatfield threw a ball 133 yards 1 foot 7.5 inches, 9-15-1872.”
He did this, although it was in October, rather than September. It’s not the record, nor was it in 1977 when Diego Segui was having giant fake batting helmets painted on his head. It doesn’t matter. You do not know what to do with this information. 133 yards 1 foot 7.5 inches seems like a long way to throw a baseball. It seems like a long enough way to jog. But how long is it, compared to how far Yoenis Cespedes could throw? Compared to Johnny Damon? You’ll never know. Everyone who broke the record hurt their arm soon afterward. They stopped trying.
We do know that John Hatfield won $25 in a baseball-throwing contest. We do not know what he did with the money. We do not know where he slept that night, whether he was alone, whether he cried about anything, whether he spent the money on booze and licorice, or whether licorice existed then. We do not know which places he wished he could have gone, how much his hands hurt, what his last words were. We know that he is dead. We know that every person he ever met, any object he created, every accomplishment he earned, every idea and joy that he ever had in his life are gone, now, shuttled from neural synapses to the corner of a hard drive in a dark server room and forgotten.
Except one afternoon, a dozen seconds of one afternoon, where he threw a baseball 133 yards 1 foot 7.5 inches. Except that, the back of Diego Segui’s 1977 Topps card, and this.