Goldman: In remembrance of Tony Fernandez

From SABR member Steven Goldman at Baseball Prospectus on February 28, 2020:

There is no Hall of Fame in a meaningful sense. There are only stories. Even if there were a Hall of Fame, Tony Fernandez would not be in it. Though in objective terms he had one of the 25-best careers by a shortstop of the modern era, the voters for the ersatz memory-box we call the Hall were done with him after one ballot. That’s not important. What is important is that in 1856, Monument Cemetery was established in Philadelphia. It received bodies for about 70 years, at which point it no longer belonged to anyone, including and especially the people under the ground. Weeds grew up amidst the tombstones as the sun and rain bleached the names and dates from their faces. 

In the 1950s, nearby Temple University coveted the land for a parking lot. Descendants of the interred were invited to claim their soon-to-be homeless ancestors. About 8,000 of 28,000 former mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers were claimed. The remaining 20,000 bodies were moved elsewhere and reinterred in an unmarked mass grave. Their former headstones were used as filler to protect the banks of the Delaware beneath the Betsy Ross Bridge from erosion. 

Fernandez passed away on February 16 at the age of 57. Since he didn’t get into the Hall, he’s safe from the false reassurance of memory that monuments provide. The counterintuitive nature of memorials (in whatever form they take) is that they promise to free us from the obligation to keep a person’s memory alive by telling their story.

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Originally published: February 28, 2020. Last Updated: February 28, 2020.