May 24, 2004
Saying GoodbyeThree days after first getting the news of it, the death of Doug Pappas seems no more real than it did on Friday. I know that denial is a stage of grief, but it's easy to get stuck there when you find your friend quoted in the paper, as Doug was in yesterday's Denver Post, the words from an interview conducted well before his passing.
That Doug would be sharing knowledge even after his death is appropriate. The man is gone, and we're all less for that loss, but what remains, what will remain, is his amazing work. From his efforts as part of the Society for American Baseball Research to his writing for Baseball Prospectus to his nascent Weblog, Doug spent much of his life sharing knowledge with others. Without fanfare, every day Doug made the world a little smarter, a little better, and did so for nothing more than the fact that he enjoyed it.
I didn't know Doug as well as some of my friends did. Six months ago, I barely knew him at all, having shared just a few brief meetings along with many e-mail exchanges. Last December, though, Sophia and I had dinner with him in Yonkers. Now, I make a point of saying that Sophia was there, because I know a lot of people in baseball who make for awkward dinner partners when the subject moves outside our shared passion. That wasn't the case with Doug, who kept Sophia regaled with stories of his trips around the country, and who made such an impression on my wife in that meeting that she, too, was heartbroken upon hearing last week's news.
Not long after that night, I saw Doug again, participating in two book signings with him in March, getting to meet his mother, Carolyn, at the first. I'm sure that Doug had given his mother countless reasons to be proud of him before that night, but I thought it was great that she was there to see him in that environment, dozens of people there to hear him speak and to get his autograph. He was tremendous in that setting, equal parts informative and entertaining, as natural with a microphone as we knew him to be with a keyboard.
The last time I saw Doug was just after the second of those two events. After the signing, a number of BPers and attendees were off to some local establishment for beverages and ball talk, and I thought that Doug would join us. With a long trip back to Westchester, though, he declined, and headed to the nearest subway. I wish I'd been able to prevail upon him to come with us that night, because a few more people would have gotten to know him, to enjoy his personality, his wit, and his passion for that other baseball team in New York.
I said this in introducing Doug at those signings, and I'll say it again here: of all the people I have worked with, I am most proud to have been able to work with Doug Pappas. His efforts to get at the truth of baseball's economic, labor and public policy issues were ceaseless, their impact lasting. That we were able to get Doug to write for Baseball Prospectus, that I was able to call him a colleague, is one of the most rewarding elements of my career.
It wasn't just the caliber of his work, which of course was high. It was that he had the courage to stand up and say, "They're lying. This is the truth," and back it up with so much evidence that he could not be ignored. Doug had a permanent effect on the way baseball's off-field issues are covered. He made it right--no, he made it mandatory--to question the claims of baseball's authorities, and he did it in the face of opposition from some powerful people. When called on the carpet by Bud Selig, Doug calmly presented the facts and refused to be intimidated.
Those who knew Doug remain in mourning, stunned at the loss of a friend at such a young age. A glance around the baseball community on the Web reveals the breadth of his impact, and the loss felt by so many people who perhaps only knew Doug through his writing.
We're going to have to get past that, and when we do, we have to do the only thing we can do for Doug: carry on his work. Instead of one strong voice braying the truth about the business of baseball, let there be dozens. Instead of one Web site, let there be hundreds. Let's let the high example Doug Pappas set be the minimum standard we set for our work, so that skepticism about the game's business side isn't just warranted, but expected. Let's make it so that Doug's legacy isn't just the work he did, but the work yet to be done by the people who read him and learned from him.
Doug showed us how. It's up to us to keep it going.
Goodbye, my friend, and thank you. Now, it's our turn to make you proud.