On the subway ride home tonight, I remembered that I still needed to send a copy of the new edition of Field of Schemes to Hardball Times and Baseball Digest Daily writer John Brattain, someone I’ve been reading and occasionally corresponding with for years now. With John about to go into the hospital for an angioplasty, a mutual friend had suggested that he’d enjoy something to read during his recovery.
When I got home and turned on my computer, I found the horrible news: John went in for surgery yesterday, and died on the operating table.
I don’t even remember the first time I spoke with John — it might have been when he interviewed me about the debates around replacing Fenway Park, eons ago, or when I interviewed him about the possible contraction of his beloved Montreal Expos, also eons ago. As both a columnist and an email correspondent, John was that rare combination of funny and insightful, and someone who could be clear-eyed about baseball’s shortcomings and yet still retain a fan’s enthusiasm for the game. (He was exactly the sort of person who would have found reading about stadium scandals to be some nice light recovery-room entertainment.) In many ways, he was the worthy successor to the late Doug Pappas, as both a writer and an analyst; now he’s gone at 43, just one year older than Doug was when he left us five years ago.
There’s a long thread at Baseball Think Factory with friends and fans of John’s remembering him and telling how he’d want us to honor him by telling bad jokes. Like so many others, while I’m sure they’re right — John would die for a chance to tell a joke, the worse the better — my heart’s not in it: His loss is too much of a bad joke in itself.