Jeff Pearlman

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Walking with the dead

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So yesterday I spent a few hours at an outdoor mall near Dallas, and as I gathered my stuff and left I noticed a small cemetery off to the rear.

Now, I’m a sucker for ice cream and I’m a sucker for cookies and I’m a sucker for old baseball cards. But I’m truly a sucker for unfamiliar cemeteries, which—to me—serve as these warm-yet-creepy-yet-riveting-yet-endearing mini museums scattered all over the planet.

Anyhow, with some free time I entered via the black gate, strolled past the NO TRESPASSING sign and walked around. This was an odd little piece of land—a bit overgrown, with the majority of deaths having occurred between, oh, 1920 and 1960. It was an incongruous place to walk among the dead. From a stone’s throw away one could overhear the laughter of shoppers, no doubt gripping iPhones and other modern devices while sipping from $6 cups of mocha frappe something. Meanwhile, the dead were dead; frozen in time beneath the gray stones that unremarkably marked their past existences.

In particular, my attention was grabbed by …

This guy …

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The Thomas Family and a crushing history of young death …

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Zelma Presley.

It’s possible I’m missing someone, but I think Zelma, who died in 2016, was the most recent person to be added to the cemetery. Her stone is still clean and fresh. The flowers show someone has visited. The grass has yet to grow over the dirt.

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This got me to thinking. And—because my brain is annoying—Googling. Had Zelma died in the 1960s or 1970s, she’d have been merely another name carved into a stone. Instead, her biography appeared before my eyes. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother and great-grandmother. She smiled a lot and accepted people who who they were.

She lived. She died. She mattered.

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Anyhow, I strongly recommend the cemetery walk next time you pass one.

The lessons are endless.

Showtime Book
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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life