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TCN Blog 2014 Top Story #2: Oscar Taveras’ Death Not About Baseball

One could make a case that the tragic death of 22-year-old Oscar Taveras on October 26th was the number one story surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014. No one could dispute that it was the most shocking.

Anyone reading this likely already knows the specifics, but for the record, here they are.

Late in the afternoon of October 26th, Taveras, an outfielder whose rookie season had ended just 10 days prior, lost control of his sports car on a highway in the tourist region of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. His 18-year-old girlfriend Edilia Arvelo also died in the one-car crash. Toxicology reports later indicated Taveras had a blood-alcohol level five times his country’s legal limit.

As the shocking news of the accident spread, grieving fans created a makeshift memorial at Busch Stadium. Thousands of mourners paid their respects in burial services in his hometown of Sosua, DR. MLB held a moment of silence before Game 6 of the World Series and the Cardinals left on the bank of lights in Busch Stadium’s right field as a remembrance.

As a tribute, Carlos Martinez requested and received approval from the Cardinals to wear Taveras’ number 18 during the 2015 season. The pitcher was hit especially hard by his close friend’s death, sharing that he had warned Taveras many times about what was apparently an ongoing issue with drinking and driving.

In a way, perhaps writing this post may enable me to have some personal closure on the matter, as well. Many others came to grips with it long ago in their own ways, but I have mostly remained quiet.

I followed Taveras’ career longer than most and had spoken with him a number of times over the years, but that is not why I remain conflicted and somewhat uncomfortable in the aftermath of his passing.

On one level, a Major League Baseball team lost a tremendous prospect, one who was being counted upon to become a mainstay of the Cardinals lineup for years to come. Accordingly, many fans dealt with the ramifications of the team no longer having a very important player.

Baseball is entertainment, escapism for many, and as a result, some place these talented people on pedestals, where they may not belong. These are same kind of folks who seem to have trouble when real life problems infringe on their sports fantasy world.

While everyone lamented about the senseless loss of young life, some did so more than others. Taveras has been memorialized, while being made out by some to be perhaps more than he should be due to his early passing.

Yes, he was a tremendous athlete, one who had yet to fully appreciate and harness his talent.

He was also flawed and immature. With money, time on his hands and bad judgment, Taveras’ reckless actions as a drunken driver not only took his life, but that of another, an innocent young woman. That is what will not let go of me.

I don’t want to sermonize, as we all have all made our own mistakes. Yet I sense a valuable opportunity is not being and will not be properly emphasized.

I wish the ongoing focus would not be on the loss of a Cardinal, but instead to use the high visibility of the deaths of both Taveras and Arvelo to help other young people recognize that their decisions could also have tragic ramifications.

On The Cardinal Nation message board, there were some who were uncomfortable with the related discussion thread being titled “Oscar Taveras’ Death.” They asked the final word be removed, as they did not want to be repeatedly reminded of the harsh reality. Let’s not look the other way, but instead talk about why it happened and how we can help make sure it is not our loved ones affected by the next such tragedy.

One way or another, every baseball player will be replaced, but the grieving Taveras and Arvelo families cannot ever replace the two young lives lost. Taveras’ infant son will grow up with no father.

That is why this is a top story for me.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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10 Responses to “TCN Blog 2014 Top Story #2: Oscar Taveras’ Death Not About Baseball”

  1. blingboy says:

    “Taveras’ infant son will grow up with no father.”

    It is my understanding that the infant will grow up with niether father nor mother. Correct me if I am wrong about that.

  2. LarryBird says:

    Thanks Brian! I have been trying to put in words my feeling on this and I think you hit the head exactly

  3. […] Positives 5. Quick Move to Add Heyward 4. Dodgers Dispatched in DS 3. Giants Squash Cardinals 2. Oscar Taveras’ Death Not About Baseball 1. Another Central Division […]

  4. Brian Walton says:

    This subject is back in the news as an ESPN writer wondered aloud about the appropriateness of the OT uniform patch this season. Several bloggers fired back with their defense of the Cardinals’ decision. As it seems the case in so many issues, the two extremes are much better covered than are the middle ground possibilities.

    Since the decision to have the patch is a done deal, there really isn’t much left to question. About the only open item is the actual patch itself. Personally, I hope it is understated. It will include “OT,” but not “18” since Martinez will be wearing Taveras’ old number.

    • blingboy says:

      Since the issue has resurfaced, I will mention a topic that was discussed at my local watering hole a while back. I’d decided not to bring it up since the issue had faded.

      What might the situation be now if OT had survived?

      No one was sure of the laws and usual practices in the DR in the case of a DWI accident where someone is killed. Jail? Felony conviction? Slap on the wrist? What about his ability to return to the US? Would the Cards org be embracing him or creating distance?

      A person in that conversation who has experienced a drunk driver tragedy close to home was of the opinion that the arm patch thing is sick, as is Martinez wearing #18, evidence of sort of a collective narcissism within the MLB family, and the reciprocal marginalization of everyone else.

      I recognize there is a difference of opinion, and my own is less extreme. Still, I would be more comfortable with no patches and no #18.

      • Brian Walton says:

        I am amazed when bloggers state their point of view with feeling and expect that is going to change people’s minds. Worse, that those who disagree are simply wrong. That is so naive. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of people will never be in agreement on such a tough issue.

        In my view, in such cases, aim to the lower-key side, but always remember that no matter what, there will be critics.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Regarding your comment, I don’t know about the laws in the DR, but it seems like it could have been a very sticky situation.

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