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When 'reason' led a sabermetrician to suicide

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Over the weekend I read something that really resonated within me, for what will probably be some obvious reasons:

The greatest moment of my sports life was game #6 of the 1985 World Series.

I had just finished watching game #5 - after the Kansas City Royals won to cut the deficit with the St. Louis Cardinals to three games to two. The phone rang and it was my brother Mike. He asked me if I wanted to go to game six of the WS. Of course I did, but I was taken aback because... how could he have tickets?

As it turns out, he had won some kind of lottery for them and had two tickets. Obviously, I wasn't going to turn down that opportunity. And, as fate would have it, the game became famous - or infamous if you are a St. Louis Cardinals' fan.


Being in that crowd when the second run came across home plate was a moment I'm sure my brother has never forgotten. It was amazing. Even better, KC went on to obliterate StL in the seventh game 11-0 to become World Champions.

But, that was then. The fact is the last playoff victory for the Chiefs was 1993 - 20 years ago. Even worse, the Royals haven't even made the playoffs since game seven of the 1985 World Series - much less win a playoff game.

Martin Manley wrote those words, recently. Twenty-odd years ago, I was in touch with Manley. I was working for Bill James, and Manley was essentially trying to become the Bill James of basketball. He was the first person I knew about who was applying sabermetric principles to basketball, and Bill did what he could to help Manley's publishing efforts, which culminated in his annual book, Basketball Heaven. Some years later, Manley did a great deal of work for The Kansas City Star, running their sports-data department while also writing a great number of essays.

Frankly, I hadn't thought about Manley in quite some time. Until Saturday morning, when my mom e-mailed me this story:

A Kansas man who committed suicide on his 60th birthday set off a treasure hunt when he indicated on a website he created that he might have stashed thousands of dollars' worth of gold and silver coins in a city park.

Martin Manley, a former Kansas City Star sports statistics editor and blogger, killed himself outside an Overland Park police station on Thursday morning.

Police declined to release details of the suicide, but local media reports said Manley shot himself. Police told MSN News on Friday that no one witnessed the suicide.

Manley extensively documented his reasoning for killing himself on a personal website, Martin Manley: My Life and Death, that he put up on the day he died. (A mirror site is here if that site is inaccessible).

Last time I checked, the personal website was down -- despite the protestations of Manley's sister, and Slate -- but the mirror site was still up. In addition to documenting "his reasoning for killing himself," Manley also lists his favorite movies, writes about his two marriages, and various other personal matters. He was a bright fellow, but not a particularly good writer. So you'll probably not spend much time with the non-suicide material. Or maybe you will; there is a sort of ... morbid curiosity that attaches itself to what now seem like musings from beyond the grave. Kept me going for an essay about a tornado, the role of race in sports, and a few other subjects.

But it's those essays about suicide that are fascinating, as you progress through what seems like a rational approach to what many consider a wholly irrational act for a healthy, financially secure 60-year-old man. I can't exactly condone Manley's decision, but neither am I in a position to condemn him. He was a religious man who did put a great deal of thought into ... well, just about everything, it seems. Well, except maybe about movies. What can you say about someone whose sixth-favorite movie of all time was Jack Reacher? I don't know. But there's no accounting for taste.

And maybe there's no just accounting for a self-described control freak who wants to control the moment at which he exits this mortal coil. Maybe there's no good reason to try. Maybe he's left us all we need to know.