The death of a ballplayer

Bob Forsch died today at the age of 61. It was shocking news, as it was just a week ago that he was at Game seven of the World Series, throwing out the first pitch and helping to inspire the Cardinals in the way that Stan Musial did earlier in the Series.

Two weeks ago, I wrote this piece about Bob Forsch, and how his identification as a Cardinal survived his trade to Houston in the 1988 season. He played one full season with the Astros, and part of a second season after the trade happened, but the Cardinals can lay claim to him as one of their own players. So the euphoria of their latest championship is tempered by this sudden reminder of his–and our–immortality.

A few of the players from the era of when I was a kid have passed on by now.

  • Lyman Bostock was killed in 1978, and it was probably the first murder I had ever heard about.
  • Thurman Munson’s death in a 1979 plane crash was a shock, since he was the reigning MVP of the American League and, well, MVPs weren’t supposed to just die, were they?
  • Donnie Moore killed himself in 1989, after taking a downward spiral after serving up the home run to Dave Henderson in the 1986 playoffs. Sad, but understandable, in a way.
  • Ken Caminiti died in 2004, but he was a poster child for the steroid era, and I found it hard to sympathize with him as a result.
  • Kirby Puckett died in 2006, after suffering a stroke the day before.
  • Mark Fidyrich died in some bizarre accident a couple of years ago, in 2009.

There are probably some others I’m forgetting now, but learning of a ballplayer’s death is more of a shock than a rock star, or an actor, or probably any other variation of a celebrity. But ballplayers are just as mortal as the rest of us.

The cause of Forsch’s death isn’t yet publicly known. It would be hard to learn it was natural causes, because that hasn’t yet happened to a player that I identified with. I know it’s happened to other players before, but none that I remember as a player when I was young. He’s just the first of many, if it was in fact natural causes, although 61 seems like it’s too young for a ballplayer to pass away. But it’s another reminder that tomorrow is promised to no one, ballplayers included.

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2 thoughts on “The death of a ballplayer

  1. Ballplayers tend to evoke a certain connection with fans. Maybe its because we live for their play. We are thrilled when they win, and depressed when they lose. We live vicariously through them. Good post. RIP Bob.

    • Thanks for reading, Vince. I forgot about Rod Beck, Darryl Kile, and a few others, I’m sure. But you’re right. I don’t think of ballplayers in the same way as others, including athletes in other sports. That’s what makes this news seem so weird.

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