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Lightly Annotated Obituary: Bub McAtee, 1876

Baseball’s greatest virtue isn’t, as certain men of letters have suggested, its languid pace, nor its exploration of the dialectic between urban and rural space, nor the wealth of data (both quantitative and qualitative) it produces — although all these qualities are notable and capable of being noted.

No, baseball’s greatest virtue is that it came of age at a time in our history when men responded to death’s chilling knell not with mild platitudes, but by means of strongman’s prose, much of it likely translated from the Latin in unheated boarding-house rooms.

By way of example, let’s consider the case of Bub McAtee — who was both born and died in a city of some Classical extraction itself — and Bub McAtee’s obituary.

In the October 29th edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune from 1876, one would have read the following. (See below for improving annotations.)

McAtee.Bub.Obit

[T]he fell destroyer consumption.
Have you ever referred to consumption without the epithet fell destroyer? If “yes” is your answer, consider castrating yourself right now.

Five of the nine are now dead.
From dust the 1872 Troy Haymakers came, and to dust they returned almost immediately.

[H]is contract was suddenly broken by the great fire.
Acts of God — including fire, tidal wave, and locust — were the only means to free agency in the 19th century.

The last words he said were that he was going to take a long sleep, and, closing his eyes, in a few moments he was dead.
Of Dylan Thomas’s villanelle “Do not go gentle into that good night”, Bub McAtee once said that “both its sentiment and all the words in it” disgusted him — this, despite the fact that Dylan Thomas wouldn’t even be born for another 30 years.

[A]s a boy, he was generous to a fault.
Goddamn you, beautiful Bub McAtee.

Obituary courtesy The Deadball Era.