Goldman: The death of Buck Weaver, baseball’s hungry ghost

From SABR member Steven Goldman at VICE Sports on February 4, 2016:

In Buddhism there is a concept known as hungry ghosts. These are disquieted, resentful spirits who exited life with such deeply unmet needs that they cannot move on to the next level of existence. In a sense, these are ghosts who haunt themselves. If there has been a theme to this offseason’s series of Vice Throwback baseball pieces—from Sam Crane, the clumsy shortstop and all-too-agile murderer to Monte Irvin and his bigotry-delayed arrival in the major leagues to Curt Flood and his doomed fight for professional self-determination—it’s that these hungry ghosts exist whether you believe in an afterlife or not. Their lives became monumental works of art which serve as powerful reminders of how easily all our best efforts can go unrewarded. We are, all of us, always one bitterness away from becoming hungry ghosts.

This week in 1956, Buck Weaver, former standout shortstop and third baseman for the Chicago White Sox, was found dead on the street in Chicago, a massive heart attack having brought to an end both his life and the decades-long quest that came to define it—his pursuit of reinstatement after the ambiguous role he played in the selling-out of the 1919 World Series resulted in his lifetime expulsion from baseball. “I never threw a ballgame in my life,” he said again and again during his 36 years out of the game. “All I knew was win.” He is the ultimate hungry ghost. Nearly 100 years after the decisions that commenced his undergoing, in the words of his teammate Ray Schalk, “the torments of hell,” you can still hear him screaming.

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Originally published: February 5, 2016. Last Updated: February 5, 2016.