As has been noted several times this week, the Cardinals are no strangers to deaths in the family. And unfortunately, turning to the written word as a method of coping with the loss of someone I never even knew in person is an all-too-familiar concept.
On Sunday night, I watched my Twitter feed as baffled responses poured onto my screen and unwilling tears poured down my cheeks. But I didn’t feel them – I was in a state of shock. Since that moment, it has become increasingly clear to me that this is one of those rare events when typing a few words on a keyboard and attempting to work out my feelings will never help my comprehension of what has happened. That being said, I’m going to give it a try.
Throughout my lifetime, Cardinal Nation has mourned the loss of Jack Buck and Stan Musial, great figures of our past. We have grieved alongside the families of Darryl Kile and Josh Hancock, who at the time were important threads in the fabric of the present. And now, we find ourselves once again speechless as we lament the passing of 22-year-old Oscar Taveras, who was in every way our future.
Thoughts of what could have been – what was supposed to be – have plagued our brains since the accident. Oscar was supposed to have had a long, illustrious career in St. Louis. He was supposed to become the face of a franchise. He was supposed to have a statue erected outside Busch Stadium. And if you were to travel there today, you would in fact see his face, not due to the career he had, but rather the one that was denied him.
Oscar only ever got to share 248 regular season plate appearances and the better part of 2014 with baseball fans. He wasn’t perfect in his rookie year, but he gave St. Louis something that was perhaps more important than ballpark-clearing home runs and copious RBI. Probably more so than any other player at the time, he represented hope. In a roller coaster season that culminated in a fourth-straight NLCS appearance, the promise of Oscar was electric and it was felt in the bones of every human being wearing the Birds on the Bat. His smile was captivating, his energy contagious, and his love of the game clear in his every moment on the field.
To hear that such a spark has been extinguished from this earth calls forth immediate rebuff. It couldn’t be possible.
But as we all know, life sometimes just isn’t fair. Prior to the strike of tragedy, Oscar cemented his place in the hearts of Cardinals fans and that is how he will always be remembered; his youth preserved for all time. Forever our young phenom.
This is where my words fail me because the end of this story was cut so heartbreakingly short. So I would like to instead turn your attention to a poem written by my brother, Brody:
No clouds around, the sun paints shades of brown in the grass of that diamond downtown
In that old, simply surviving city settles by the Rivers.
The Lou’s brightest days through, a loud proud baseball crowd looks away from the old to focus on the new.
He was only twenty-two.
You can’t quantify the type of hype which Oscar Taveras carried through the ranks of the Cardinals’ factory.
A budding star, he was ripe for the taking; that is, the taking of the hearts of captivated Cardinals fans across the nation.
Number three in prospect lists and number eighteen on the field, this Minor League Guy cemented his status as the real deal
In a game of firsts but a game of twos; it was the second pitch of his second at-bat in a game that ended Cards up two-zip.
It was his first Big League hit and his first big home run and the first time he did big things in St. Louis.
The kid was a natural, destined for stardom,
And now we’re left dumbstruck, as this bright future was ripped away just days after a successful season stopped short of the distance.
And these what ifs generate resistance because Oscar had work to do at Mozeliak’s insistence.
In that sweet swing and sweeter smile was a kid who simply loved to play and work towards that goal of one day being the best in baseball.
The boom off the bat in that debut game shattered the skies and released the rain
As Cardinal Nation gave an ovation in adoration
And to bookend this narration Oscar put another ball into aviation
To a deafening roar in a powerful postseason comeback.
Not through a full season, he was a seasoned name in our households, the next big Cardinal great.
And now it’s too late. In his short career here he gave a handful of curtain calls,
And now the call is on the curtains to close prematurely on a life well-lived but a life robbed like a leaping warning track grab.
And we’re left to try to take a stab at these incomprehensible feelings tearing us apart.
The clouds rolling in, it’s getting dark. But no rain falls this time. The clouds’ eyes are dry.
Number eighteen will not circle the diamond under the Arch again, but forever circling our minds is what could have been.
Oscar’s up there with The Man now. His happy flight has safely landed as he joins the eternal Cardinals team on the true field of dreams.
Rest in peace, OT.