Obituary for a Fake Ballplayer

Beloved ballplayer Billy Clarke has died.

Clarke passed earlier this week from an all-consuming malaise. In spite of his slow, almost mocking descent into non-existence, the very end was said to be a shock to those near to him. This raises the possibility that Mr. Clarke was actually killed in an auto-crash pyre, or perhaps murdered by a desperate criminal. Upon reflection, the cause of his death scarcely matters.

His young son, now fatherless and forever arrested in so many ways, thought, upon seeing the body of his father, that he looked at once as though he were asleep but also hopelessly beyond the reach of anything like sleep. Years later, while drinking alone in the dark, he will utter to no one, least of all himself, “There was nothing peaceful about my father’s body.”

Mr. Clarke leaves behind a wife. She is comely enough to remarry, but she will be reduced to a mate she never would’ve considered in an earlier, childless state. Mr. Clarke also leaves behind a daughter. You can imagine how things will go for her.

It should be noted that, despite a practiced image to the contrary, Mr. Clarke was not a religious man. If his booming pastor is right about that which he booms on Sundays, then Mr. Clarke is not now at rest and never shall be. Or it’s possible that, at the moment of Mr. Clarke’s passing from relentless disease or something less permissive of absurd, at-marathon-length goodbyes, the lights simply went out. Others will remember him until they have to go to the supermarket or the next episode of that show about those chimpanzee lawyers comes on the television.

In his playing days, Mr. Clarke brought illusions of joy to a narrowly defined segment of those who watched him. Some of those are long-dead central bankers or union machinists. One of those died weeping so ferociously that he continued weeping for several seconds after his physical death, which was owing to cancer or falling ice.

Mr. Clarke enjoyed nothing that didn’t distract him from other things he failed to enjoy. His favorite hobby was staring vacantly at something he needed to take care of at some point. He was more respected than respectable.

The cold avenues of his city are astream with mourners. Or perhaps they are people going to work or lunch. A local funeral home — an ugly, low-slung building surely not up to code — will be the staging point for whatever it is we’re going to do next. His awful pastor will say things with a strange degree of curricular regimentation. On pain of ridicule, some will believe him. Outside, the red lights of those cold avenues will be turned to a salmon color by the fog and mist. Or perhaps it will be sunny, being that this is not a movie.

Mr. Billy Clarke played baseball. He is now dead. He leaves behind remnant urges.

(This piece originally appeared at FanGraphs. It has since been revised and made even worse, probably.)

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