My birthday was May 3rd. I'm 33 now. As I always do on my birthday, I turned dark. To quote Mitch Hedberg, “I bought a pack of carefree gum but it didn’t work, so I went back to pondering my own mortality.” So, while in Baltimore—I was cleared to travel in April—my wife and I went on a tour of cemeteries that included the grave sites of Edgar Allen Poe and John Wilkes Booth. When I Googled to see whom else was buried in those cemeteries, to my surprise many former ballplayers were laid to rest there, and long forgotten. It's amazing to me how long the lineage of baseball really goes. I went to the grave of Steve Brodie. Brodie was an outfielder for the Boston Beaneaters, St Louis Browns, the former Baltimore Orioles, New York Giants, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The guy was a .300+ career hitter in 12 years and nobody on earth in my estimation has ever heard of him. Imagine what kind of attention a guy like that would get today. What kind of life would he have had if he'd been born a hundred years later, hit .300+ a hundred years later? The rotten luck of being born in the wrong century sucks. But to be there, to be reminded again that baseball's story began well over a century ago, blew my mind. It’s a fact we're all well aware of, but to actually physically touch a gravestone of someone who played a game that I work in is mind boggling. It made it real. It made me appreciate my own life even more.
It reminds me of the time I went to the Seattle Mariners pre-draft workout in 2010. Best week of my baseball life. I saw Roy Halladay's perfect game in Miami to start the week and Ken Griffey Jr.'s last career home run to end the week. In between I was at the predraft workout to watch a client who would eventually go on to be a first-round draft pick by a different club a few weeks later. During the down time in Seattle I had this urge to go visit Viretta park, the park right next to the house that Kurt Cobain died in. Kurt Cobain has been in the news lately, as the brilliant documentary Montage of Heck was released on HBO the day after my birthday. Kurt Cobain has always been the voice of my generation, and his music spoke to me. "Drain You," my absolute favorite song of all time, was played at my wedding. Regardless, I wanted to go to his house, just to see. I got there and it wasn’t historical in anyway. It was sad, it was reality, and reality sucks. Kurt Cobain was a real person with a real family and real problems and now he’s dead. He didn’t belong to us and that smack of reality was the first time I ever experienced that feeling. Experiencing it again in the context of baseball was bizarre.
I have a hand-written letter by Alexander Cartwright hanging on my wall. I’ve always kept it as a memento and it is a cool piece of baseball memorabilia, and now I appreciate it more than ever. The moral of all of this is that baseball might be America's pastime, but it doesn’t belong to any of us. Only the memories that we own do. Every one of us could witness the same game and have a different memory of the experience. I implore everyone who loves the game to go to as many games as you are allowed. Minors or majors, just go, and take in every detail you can and hold them with you.
When I was sick it was those memories of this great game that helped get me through some very hard times.
Baseball has always been a salvation to me. The history, the numbers, the game itself. I love every facet of the game. So to get back to Steve Brodie: 100 years from now, nobody will remember me, but maybe someone will stumble upon my name or my grave, look me up on future Google, and find that I existed in a certain time and place and in a sport that I hope is still around. The history of baseball is so rich, from Cap Anson to Home Run Baker to Steve Brodie to Eddie Gaedel to Willie Mays to Cal Ripken to Barry Bonds to Mike Trout and Michael Brantley. It's easy to forget the Steve Brodies of the world.
So, here's my offer: If you get a second in your day and you love the game, do some research and stumble upon a lesser-known player from the past. If he's still alive, shoot me an email and I will gladly provide you a mailing address. Write them letters, ask them questions, let them know they aren’t forgotten. Believe me, they appreciate the letters. Bennie Daniels pitched the last ball thrown at Ebbets Field. Bobby Shantz was the 1952 AL MVP , Al Weis and Ed Charles were members of the Miracle Mets. J.W. Porter, now an usher at Roger Dean Stadium, once caught for Bob Gibson. Even Al Kaline responds to fan mail (for 10 dollars to charity). I implore everyone in fandom to go beyond being a spectator and try to get closer to the game we all love and enjoy. We might not own the game, but we all share a part of it. Enjoy every minute of it because nothing lasts forever. Res Ipsa Loquitor
As a final note: I am now starting a podcast, like everyone else on earth. It's called the Joshua Kusnick Experience, and I'm making it with Ryan Sullivan. Pilot episode is baseball centric but I’m going full Marc Maron about my life at some point, childhood on. It will be a confessional of sorts with minimal to zero editing. I hope it goes well; seems like a nice experiment. Thank you for reading and caring about my well being.
Thank you for reading
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Sometimes those questions lead to full-blown biographies, as at the SABR Baseball Biography Project (http://sabr.org/bioproject), which are invaluable in helping us remember those who deserve to be remembered.
Second, SABR is an incredible resource; rich niche stories of the people and personalities of the game.