Baseball mourns death of José Fernández

Yasiel Puig embraces José Fernández at Marlins Park on August 19, 2013. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Yasiel Puig embraces José Fernández at Marlins Park on August 19, 2013. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Baseball fans woke to tragedy and shock this morning with the news that José Fernández and two others had been killed overnight in a boating accident.

“José Fernández was one of the nicest, most respectful, young players I ever had the pleasure of getting to know. My heart is shattered,” SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo said on Twitter this morning, expressing the sentiments of so many.

“The fact that José, his mom and others risked their lives to flee Cuba, saved her from drowning, only to die in this way, is incomprehensible,” she added.

Said former Dodger pitcher Dan Haren on Twitter: “José Fernández is one of the most genuine guys I’ve ever played with. He loved life, he loved baseball. … He will be missed dearly.”

Los Angeles Dodgers at All Star Monday

For Dodger fans of my age, it was instinctive upon hearing the news to think instantly of former Dodger pitchers Tim Crews and Bobby Ojeda, who were in a 1993 Spring Training boating accident that took the life of Crews and their new Cleveland Indians teammate, Steve Olin. Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated wrote a devastating story four months after that accident, and Jon Saraceno and Bob Nightengale of USA Today revisited in 2013.

Fernandez was 24 years old.


Absolutely horrible news. RIP.

I also instantly thought of Crews and Olin. So sad.

I’m still can’t get over it. My condolences to his family and friends.

I thought of them, too, and I thought of this poem. Jim McKay recited it at the 1972 Olympics (the only sportscaster, in my opinion, other than Vin who would have thought of this and who approached Vin in literary quality). It’s A.E. Housman, “To An Athlete Dying Young”:
The time you won your town the race,
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
As home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

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