Archive for Obituary

John Hatfield Threw a Ball

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.

On the Topic of Gruesome 19th Century Ballplayer Deaths

Bergen Article

The author, in the midst of conversation with viscount of the internet Rob Neyer last week, inquired of that latter party which — of all the horrifying and notable deaths died by 19th century ballplayers — which of them he (i.e. Neyer) regarded as particularly emblematic of that time. Neyer’s answer: a drunken Ed Delahanty, having just alighted from a train by order of its conductor, falling into Niagara Falls. A strong entry, one is forced to agree.

By means of social media, American wordsmith Josh Wilker submits another worthy candidate — namely, the case of Boston catcher Marty Bergen. Widely praised for his defensive prowess, Bergen was also a victim of mental illness. In January of 1900, at age 28, he murdered his wife and two children by means of an axe, before using a straight razor to slice his own throat — an endeavor he pursued with such enthusiasm, a Wikipedia contributor relates, that he “nearly beheaded himself.”

*Image from January 20, 1900, edition of New York Times.

Senseless 19th Century Baseball Deaths: Lew Brown

Lew Brown Obit Done

Lew Brown played for Providence, at least two Boston clubs, and assorted other teams during a seven-year career. He retired, it would seem, following his age-26 season. In January of 1889, just weeks short of his 31st birthday, he somehow broke his kneepan (an antiquated word for kneecap) on a stone cuspiodor (i.e. a spittoon) whilst wrestling. Then, somehow, he immediately contracted pneumonia, became delirious, and then died.

Cause of death, ultimately: the 19th century.

Click image to embiggen. Notice of death care of Boston Globe. Credit to Deadball Era for data, as well.

Today’s Glimpse into the Horrible: Eddie Gaedel’s Death

Click to embiggen, something Gaedel himself never could do.

Basically all the big philosophers advocate on behalf of a perpetual contemplation of death. “One can’t truly live,” goes the reasoning, “until that same one accepts his mortality as fact.” A reasonable point, that, probably.

Today’s brief recognition of the Ultimate Darkness is facilitated by some trifling internet surfing by the author — which surfing led both to Eddie Gaedel‘s Wikipedia page and also obituary. Capital-T Truth has revealed that, while generally remembered as a willing participant in one of Bill Veeck’s many amusing promotional ventures, Gaedel was actually afflicted considerably by life’s afflictions.

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A Complete Clutterbuck

Da jersey font is Molson Serif, dontchaknow?

Woe is Bryan Clutterbuck. He doesn’t like clouds, he doesn’t like Canada, and he doesn’t like coffee! Bryan Clutterbuck probably doesn’t even like baseball any more. Also, he has a cold.

The El Paso Ambulators!

Bryan Clutterbuck used to have a nice little butcher shop in Texas, regular poker game in the back after hours, sponsored a softball team. Those were the days. Big meat, loyal regulars, bone cleavers at the ready. The young Widow Johnson once made a pass at him; she went on to remarry, but not to Bryan Clutterbuck. Alas.

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Greg Luzinski Is a Killing Machine

I desire nothing save the completion of assigned tasks.

Do not blame Greg Luzinski for being a killing machine: For he is but a hostage to his factory settings. The pits of his eyes are pellucid only at the moment of the kill. Stare into them — moments before he makes a deadly cudgel out of one of your de-socketed limbs — and you see nothing more than the clicks, clangs, grinds and clatters of an industrial sense of mission. It follows, then, that Greg Luzinski is a killing machine.

As you might imagine, he is amoral in the extreme. The sense of compunction he feels at the clinically detached slaying of, say, a grandmother who has finally come to believe that, insofar as Publisher’s Clearinghouse is concerned, the fix is in; or the child who witnesses the indiscretion of a diplomat; or the shareholder who is too promiscuous with grievances toward the board fails to register on even the most finely tuned instruments of detection. It follows, then, that Greg Luzinski is a killing machine.

Depending on circumstances and externalities, Greg Luzinski’s Boolean programming commands him to kill with a muzzle-loading firearm or the cutlass he wears on his hip or the nearest load-bearing beam. Failing those, he will use his barrel-hinge knuckles to choke the insurrectionist until his isthmus of a throat turns to blood and dust.

Do not blame Greg Luzinski for the warehoused pallets of the over-murdered. You’d just as soon blame the tempest for the ship’s wreckage. Greg Luzinski’s one and only locus presses him onward, and so he annihilates by rote.

The only reason Greg Luzinski isn’t taking back the streets at this moment is that he never surrendered those streets in the first place. Another reason is that he isn’t taking back the streets is that those who mind his switches haven’t yet received written orders — signed in triplicate — instructing them to command Greg Luzinski to take back the streets. But if they do, he will. And don’t you know the storm drains shall be choked with a thickset gumbo of human organs.

Greg Luzinski, you see, is a killing machine.

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.

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