Visiting Hall of Fame Graves – An Essay Stew Thornley
I got to my first two Hall of Fame graves in 1995, but it wasn’t until 1997 that I began visiting them on a regular basis. In January 2002, I completed the circuit. Over time, as more graves came up – either by Hall of Famers dying or dead people being elected to the Hall of Fame – I tried to keep up. I did get current again at one point. But, dang, they keep dying. As of September 2020, I’ve been to the graves/interment spots of 222 Hall of Famers. Some don’t have a burial site, having been lost at sea, cremated with the ashes staying with the family, or vitrified.
I created a web page of Baseball Hall of Fame Gravesites. On it, I have tried to include enough information to help others find these graves. Over time, and with the help of others, I’ve added GPS coordinates. Most have a link to the picture of the grave, which, I’ve definitely learned, can be a big help.
I’ve had some interesting experiences visiting the graves as well as finding out where people are buried. A couple of people – Dave D’Antonio and Ralph Carhart – have written books that serve as interesting travel essays. Inspired by them, I thought I’d do my own essay.
In February 1995 my then-girlfriend and now-wife, Brenda Himrich, and I went to Hawaii. It was the final state for me to visit and turned out to be the first in a different quest. In addition to the usual touristy stuff – visiting and snorkeling on four islands, Pearl Harbor, the National Football League Pro Bowl, University of Hawaii baseball games, volcanoes – I added a trip to the grave of Alexander Cartwright, one of the “Fathers of Baseball,” to the itinerary. On a day that included Diamond Head, the capitol, the Iolani Palace, the Punchbowl Cemetery, and a ballgame between Hawaii and San Jose State, we worked in a trip to Oahu Cemetery to see Cartwright’s grave. Glad we did.
Later that year, in October, I ended up with a free plane ticket and used it to fly to Albany, New York, so I could go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I was going to have a few extra days and decided to roam through western New England and make my way down to New York. In a 1982 Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Baseball Research Journal was an article by Bill Ivory with a list of gravesites of Hall of Famers. From that, I knew Babe Ruth was somewhere around New York City. I hadn’t planned ahead that well to check the article before I left, but when I was at the Hall of Fame I went to its library and found that Ruth was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, about 20 miles north of New York.
On a Sunday morning I went to the cemetery. Fortunately, the office was open, and the person on duty gave me a map that showed all the notable people buried there. I wasn’t interested in anyone but Babe Ruth, so I ignored the others. Had I known that an adjacent cemetery contained two (and eventually three more) Hall of Famers, I would have gone there, too. This time, the only one I visited was the Babe’s. I was impressed by the offerings people left and inspired to leave something myself. I got a notebook from my car and wrote, “Babe, You’re the best,” along with a date and signature as well as an NY monogram. I later found out that this note ended up in the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore.
A friend of mine, Paul Rittenhouse, and I sometimes compared notes on graves we had visited. Paul and I and others often made sports-related road trips, but we hadn’t yet included cemetery visits to them. In March of 1997, Paul and I were going to the Final Four basketball tournament in Indianapolis. We were flying to Chicago and driving the rest of the way. I knew we would have some free time and also figured that Benjamin Harrison was probably buried in Indianapolis. The night before we left, I went to the Find-a-Grave web site and saw that Harrison is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. John Dillinger is also buried there. We went to the cemetery office to get a map, which noted the graves of other notable people. The cemetery people were enthusiastic about all the famous dead people in their custody and urged us to visit many of them, which we did.
Getting to Harrison’s grave knocked another president off my list. That became a quest in itself, and I eventually got to all of them. We didn’t get to any Hall of Famers on this trip, but it did get us going on making cemeteries a primary destination on future trips.
I wasn’t yet thinking about trying to get to all of the Hall of Fame graves, but I decided to make more of an effort to get to them. Two Hall of Famers are in western Wisconsin. In mid-May a group of us drove to Superior for Dave Bancroft. A week later, a number of us went to Clear Lake, where Burleigh Grimes had lived. In 1985, six months before Grimes died, we had gone to Clear Lake and met him along with his longtime friend, Charles Clark. I contacted Charles about visiting Grimes’s grave, and he set up a daylong event for our group, which included a trip to the cemetery.
In June 1997, Paul Rittenhouse and I went to the SABR convention in Louisville. We flew into Cincinnati and drove around Kentucky and Tennessee, going to a couple minor-league games and to Churchill Downs and a lot of graves. The only Hall of Famer was Happy Chandler.
Now that I was getting warmed up, I planned a big trip for early July that would take me from Washington to Philadelphia to New York, going to baseball games and a lot of cemeteries to see the graves of all sorts and all types of dead people. I was prepared, having written to the cemeteries to get information on where people were buried. The first day – which ended with me getting to a Phillies game barely in time for the first pitch – I got to these Hall of Famers: Clark Griffith outside Washington and, in the same cemetery in Baltimore, Wilbert Robinson, Ned Hanlon, Joe Kelley, and John McGraw. I also got to the graves of several presidents and a presidential assassin.
After the Phillies game, I drove toward New York and stayed overnight in New Jersey. The next morning, Independence Day, I drove to the former site of the Polo Grounds in New York. I was so taken by this area wedged between the Harlem River and the bluffs of Manhattan schist that I decided to write a book about the Polo Grounds. I drove around Manhattan for a while – it’s so easy to drive through the city on holidays – and then got to Frankie Frisch in the Bronx. I headed north, stopping to see the Babe again at Gate of Heaven cemetery and then to Kensico Cemetery, the one that shares a property line with Gate of Heaven. Not far from another in Kensico are Lou Gehrig and Ed Barrow.
Besides the Hall of Famers, on this trip I visited the graves of 5 presidents, 1 or 2 presidential assassins, 1 FBI henchman (and a good friend of the FBI director), 2 secretaries of state (one who was killed in a duel and the other who died the day I was born), 1 gay Vietnam veteran, 2 vice presidents (one who killed a former secretary of state in a duel and the other who resigned in disgrace), 2 Supreme Court Chief Justices (one who is a fraternity brother and the other who was also a president), 2 former ballparks, 1 drunken Yankee manager, 1 five-star general, 1 Union general, 1 Civil War photographer, 1 good witch, 1 Marine Corps Band director, 1 heavyweight boxing champion, 2 North Pole explorers, and 1 cross-dressing FBI director.
Near the end of August 1997 I took a work trip to Indianapolis. The prices for mid-week flights were so high that I flew in and out of Chicago instead and rented a car, which allowed for a lot of grave hunting. In the Chicago area, I got to the graves of Adrian “Pop” Anson, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Ray Schalk, and Andrew “Rube” Foster. In Indianapolis I saw Oscar Charleston and Chuck Klein. After the first day of meetings, I headed out to Ban Johnson in Spencer and Mordecai “Three-Fingered” Brown in Terre Haute. The next day, on my way back to Chicago I stopped in South Bend to see Stan Coveleski.
In October 1997 Paul Rittenhouse, George Rekela, Howard Luloff, and I drove to Michigan to see the Minnesota Gophers play the Michigan State Spartans. On the way to Michigan we stopped at the grave of Al Simmons in Milwaukee and the graves of Will Harridge, Charles Comiskey, and William Hulbert in the Chicagoland area.
That fall I went to the National Association of Government Communicators conference in Alexandria, Virginia, leaving a few days early to allow for all sorts of sightseeing and visits to Williamsburg and Monticello and Civil War sites and various graves. In addition, on Veteran’s Day, I saw Bill Clinton put a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The only Hall of Fame grave I visited on this trip was that of Walter Johnson in Maryland. I had talked to his daughter, Carolyn Thomas, who provided helpful information for finding his grave.
By the end of 1997, I had been to 27 Hall of Fame graves.
The first one in 1998 was in January when Brenda Himrich (now my wife) and I went to the Grand Canyon. We flew in and out of Phoenix and were able to get to the grave of Jocko Conlan in Scottsdale.
I won a national government photo contest and got a trip to Washington, D. C., to receive the award at the National Press Club in April. I went out there early and did a lot of running around to get to these graves: Christy Mathewson in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; Mickey Welch and Wee Willie Keeler in Queens; Henry Chadwick in Brooklyn; Chief Bender and Connie Mack in Philadelphia; and Bill McGowan in Wilmington, Delaware.
The following month, I accompanied Brenda on a trip to the an industrial hygiene convention in Atlanta. The convention package included a trip to a ball game at Turner Field. The next day I took off for a couple days of sightseeing on my own, getting to Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Anderson National Historic Site. I visited Joe Jackson’s grave, along with many others, but the only Hall of Fame grave I went to was for Ty Cobb. I also got locked in a cemetery in Atlanta while visiting the graves of Margaret Mitchell and Bobby Jones. It was getting late and I knew I was pushing the cemetery’s hours. As I approached the main gate to leave, it was closed. I hoped there was a caretaker on site to open it. Not only was there such a person, he was already walking out there, probably having seen me drive by and probably muttering, “Dumbass.”
A bunch of us went to the SABR convention in San Francisco in June. Along with Brenda and Paul Rittenhouse, Fred Buckland and his wife, Gaynelle, piled into a large rental car after we landed and got to the graves of Tony Lazzeri and Ernie Lombardi on the East Bay and George Kelly in Colma, just south of San Francisco. After the convention we got to the grave of Lefty Gomez in San Raphael.
At the convention we met Dave D’Antonio, who was giving a presentation on his 1995 cross-country trip to visit the graves of as many Hall of Famers as he could. I bought Dave’s book, Invincible Summer, which included photos and sketches of many of the graves. Those were often helpful in my future searches as was Dave, who responded to a lot of inquiries from me on tips for finding certain graves.
In late August 1998 I went to an American Water Works Association train-the-trainer workshop in New Orleans. It was a little disconcerting since Northwest Airlines was scheduled to go on strike at the end of the day of my arrival, which was a few days in advance of the workshop. I did my usual sightseeing and grave visiting on the day I arrive and stayed up until midnight to see if the strike was happening. Sure enough, it happened.
There was no way to get through to the airlines (their automated message was basically a long-winded version of “Fuck You”), but the next morning, I called our office’s travel agency from a roadside phone in southern Alabama. Even though it was a Saturday, people were on duty and one was able to get me booked on a return flight on a different airline. I felt more relaxed and was able to better enjoy the rest of my journey, which included the graves of Dizzy Dean in Bond, Mississippi, and Met Ott in Metarie, Louisiana, before the workshop began.
Another work trip in November took me to meetings at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regional office in San Francisco. The meetings were on a Thursday and Friday. This was still in the days when airlines charged a lot more if you didn’t have a Saturday night stayover. The fares were so much more that my employer (the Minnesota Department of Health) would cover the cost of additional nights in a hotel if it meant the overall cost was lower. On Saturday, I got to the graves of Harry Hooper in Aptos and Chick Hafey in St. Helena.
This brought the total to 44 at the end of 1998. I must have been on a kick by the following year, wondering if I could ever get to all of the graves, because I made it to 44 Hall of Fame graves in 1999, doubling the total. I planned a number of trips mainly to get to Hall of Famers, even though I worked in visits to other graves (especially presidents) and other sites.
The first trip was in February, when a cut-rate airlines, Vanguard, had fares of about $69 (nice) each way to Kansas City. I got in Thursday night and the next day crossed the state. In Kansas City I visited Zack Wheat, Satchel Paige, and Kid Nichols. I headed east, dipping south to go to Jefferson City to get another capital/capitol out of the way and then farther south to come up on Sullivan, where Sunny Jim Bottomley is in an above-ground crypt.
Next came the suburbs of St. Louis for Joe Medwick, George Sisler, and James “Cool Papa” Bell. In St. Louis I got to a couple other graves as well as the sites of Robison Field and Sportsman’s Park. The next morning I roamed around St. Louis a bit and then went down to DeSoto, about 45 miles to the southwest, which is where my first job in radio broadcasting was 24 years before. It’s still a dump. I continued on to Arkansas, seeing the capitol and the grave of Bill Dickey in Little Rock. I got to McAlester, Oklahoma, that night and got a room at the Super 8. The next morning I saw the grave of Joe McGinnity in McAlester and then headed west.
A little ways before Oklahoma City I headed north to Meeker. Carl Hubbell is buried there. It wasn’t a cemetery with an office, at least not a place I could write to ahead of time for information. However, I sent a letter to the city, and someone responded with directions to the cemetery and a specific location for The Meal Ticket.
In Oklahoma City, besides the capitol and the site of the Murrah Building, where they were building a plaza to commemorate the 1995 bombing, I got to the grave of Lloyd Waner. In Kansas, I went to see Fred Clarke in Winfield. It was the last Hall of Fame grave on the trip although I also got to some other graves, including Dwight Eisenhower. I was knocking other items off my list on this trip, such as state capitals and presidents graves.
In May 1999 I went to Florida for ball games (two Devil Rays, one Marlins) and a bunch of graves. I few into Orlando – of course sharing the plane with a bunch of screaming shitass kids who were going to Disney World – and – got to Joe Tinker in Orlando and Napoleon Lajoie in Daytona Beach. Not far from Lajoie is Fred Merkle. I had needed a little help finding the graves, even though I had gotten information in advance, so I stopped at the office. The people there were helpful but didn’t seem to care that within their necropolis were a Hall of Famer and a man who had the most famous boner in baseball history. It was disappointing.
Therefore, I got a special kick out of the cemetery worker I encountered the next morning in Jacksonville, where Bill Terry is entombed. I got up early and was in the cemetery before it officially opened. Therefore, an employee thought it best to check me out. When I told him I wanted to see Bill Terry’s crypt, he perked up and walked with me to it. He also said, with definite pride in his voice, “I put him in there.” That made my day.
Crossing back across the state, I got to Dazzy Vance in Homosassa Springs, which is near the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, which I visited. Veering around the Tampa Bay area to the south, I got to Heinie Manush in Sarasota and Paul Waner and Bill McKechnie in Bradenton. Waner and McKechnie are in the same cemetery and only about 90 feet from one another, possibly the closest two dead Hall of Famers.
I went to an Anaheim-Tampa Bay game that night and the next day headed toward the Atlantic coast, getting to Ray Dandridge in Palm Bay, Billy Herman in Jupiter, Ed Walsh in Pompano Beach, and Jimmie Foxx in Miami. My grave hunting done, I saw a Pittsburgh-Florida game that night and then another Angels-Devil Rays game in St. Petersburg the next day before heading home.
The following weekend Brenda and I took a road trip to Illinois and Missouri for another capitol/capital (Springfield in Illinois), Abraham Lincoln grave and stuff, Mark Twain stuff, and the graves of Old Hoss Radbourne (Radbourne with a final e on his grave) in Bloomington, Illinois, and Jake Beckley in Hannibal, Missouri. We also got a vice president (Adlai Stevenson) and his dad in the same cemetery as Old Hoss and a president, Hoobert Heever, in Iowa.
Near the end of June Paul Rittenhouse went to Phoenix for the SABR convention and saw three Arizona Diamondbacks games, the final one being a no-hitter by Jose Jimenez of St. Louis as we outdueled Randy Johnson. On Saturday we drove to San Diego and saw a Padres game that night. The next day we hit the graves of Bobby Wallace, Sam Crawford, Hank Greenberg, and Frank Chance in the Los Angeles area before heading back to Phoenix.
In July Paul, Brenda, and I went to St. Paul, Nebraska for Grover Cleveland Alexander and saw a minor-league game in Omaha.
In November, Paul, George Rekela, and I went to see the Gophers play at Penn State. Paul and I went out ahead of George and went through Ohio, visiting presidents’ graves and a bunch of Hall of Famers: Cy Young, Elmer Flick, Red Ruffing, Billy Evans, Ed Delahanty, Addie Joss, and Roger Bresnahan. The next day, before picking up George at the Pittsburgh airport, we visited Honus Wagner, Pud Galvin, Pie Traynor, and Josh Gibson in that area.
I made one more trip in 1999, getting a good deal on Priceline.com to go to North Carolina. I was able to be in two more capitals, Raleigh and Charleston, West Virginia. With Priceline.com’s name-your-price feature, I got a round-trip flight to Raleigh for $144. The downside is that you don’t get to pick your travel times, and I ended up flying out on a Friday afternoon (arriving in Raleigh at 4:40 p.m.) and a late-afternoon return flight on Sunday. That didn’t leave a lot of time, so I decided I’d try to get in two North Carolina graves after landing.
Buck Leonard is in Rocky Mount, about 50 miles from Raleigh. I had talked to Leonard’s widow, who let me know how to find his outdoor mausoleum. It was dark when I got there. Although there were no gates, I knew that cemetery officials don’t like people in there after dark, and it was dark when I arrived. Lugenia Leonard’s description of where to go was good, and I found the right spot. I used a flashlight to find the crypt and take a picture of it. Then I headed another 90 miles east, to Hertford, for Catfish Hunter. There was a road that ran down the middle of the cemetery, and Hunter’s grave, which still had only a temporary marker, was about halfway down that road.
I went back to Rocky Mount and stayed in a Super 8. The next day I went to Charleston and spent the day there. On Sunday, I came back to North Carolina, stopping to see the Andy Griffith stuff in Mount Airy and got to the grave of Frances “Aunt Bee” Bavier in Siler City. In Greensboro is another Hall of Famer, Rick Ferrell. Next to him is his brother, Wes, whom some think should be in the Hall of Fame, so I took a picture of both graves in case he eventually makes it.
I explored the campuses of Wake Forest and, back in the Raleigh area, of North Carolina and Duke. I was able to get into Cameron Indoor Stadium right after a Duke basketball game ended, and then I went to the airport for my flight home.
Brenda and I gave me mom a trip to Virginia and Washington, D. C., as a Christmas present, and we went out there in January 2000. We saw lots of things, including Monticello in Charlottesville, but the only Hall of Fame grave we went to was Hack Wilson in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
In March I flew to Dallas to get to Texas graves. Because of thunderstorms, the plane had to fly around some weather and also land in Little Rock, Arkansas, for refueling so we landed about 1:00, three hours later than scheduled. I headed to Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas for Mickey Mantle, my all-time favorite player, and then to Hubbard, Texas, for Tris Speaker.
I left Hubbard around 4:00, heading for Waco a half-hour away with Austin about 90 miles beyond. I was hoping to get to Rogers Hornsby‘s grave in Hornsby Bend, Texas, outside of Austin, while there was still some light. I didn’t think I could make it since I had mistakenly noted the time of sunset as 5:37 p.m. On the interstate en route to Austin, I noticed the sun was still fairly high and knew I would have more time. As it turned out, there was an extra hour of sunlight from what I had thought there would be, and I needed every minute of it.
I hadn’t brought a real flashlight with me, as I had when I did some nighttime graveyard exploring in North Carolina three months before, since I hadn’t expected to be arriving so late. I found a little penlight flashlight in my briefcase, but I wasn’t sure how well it would illuminate things if I got there after dark (as it turned out, not at all).
I was a bit nervous about going to Hornsby’s grave since I knew it was in a private cemetery with a No Trespassing sign on the road into it. I made great time, both on the way to Waco from Hubbard and then on the interstate, but in the north part of Austin, there was a major traffic backup. (The backup was just as bad in the other direction—apparently just normal rush-hour traffic for Austin.) When I got off the interstate and on U. S. Hwy. 183 heading toward Hornsby’s Bend (about 15 miles off I-35), the traffic was just as bad. The final 20-25 miles of the journey took a long time and the sun was setting when I got to the cemetery at around 6:30. (Apparently, the sun set at 6:37, not 5:37 as I had marked down.)
There was a sign off S. R. 969 for Hornsby’s Bend Cemetery, but the road to the cemetery had not only the No Trespassing sign, as I had expected, but a closed gate, which I had not. Next to the cemetery road was a driveway to a solitary house. I walked down that driveway and asked the people there about the cemetery. I was told that, even though it had a No Trespassing sign, people came and went freely to the cemetery. (In addition to the Hornsby family, there are some Texas Rangers in there, I learned.) They also told me the gate wasn’t locked, which it wasn’t (saving me a climb over the fence). I went back through the gate, passed through it, and walked down the road to the cemetery, about a half-mile away. The cemetery itself was surrounded by a fence, topped by barbed wire, with a gate that was chained closed. Fortunately, the chain wasn’t locked. I walked in. The cemetery was larger than I expected, but I remembered from Dave D’Antonio’s Invincible Summer that he said Rogers Hornsby’s grave was in the back corner. I went to one back corner, didn’t find it, and walked toward the other back corner. It was starting to get very dark, and I found out that the penlight that I had was not going to be of any help. However, there was still just enough light to help me find the grave. I took a couple pictures, walked back to the car, and headed back to Austin (finding the traffic nearly as bad as before even though it was now 7:00).
The next morning, Saturday, I went to Evergreen Cemetery in Austin, where Willie Wells is, arriving before it was open, so I drove over to Texas State Cemetery. The gates to the road weren’t yet open, but it was possible to walk in, so I did and saw the graves of John Connally, Barbara Jordan, Stephen F. Austin, and CSA Generals Albert Sidney Johnston (the commander killed at Shiloh, the first major Civil War battlefield I ever visited) and John Wharton. I got back to Evergreen Cemetery at 7:45, and by this time it was open, so I went in and found the grave of Willie Wells. Then I headed up to Austin Memorial Park Cemetery to see James Michener’s grave, stopping at the state capitol on the way. (A few years later, Wells’s grave was moved to Texas State Cemetery; I went to that one in 2005, and the link above shows his grave in both locations.)
Next I headed out to the LBJ ranch, stopping at the visitors’ center in Johnson City, then continuing to the ranch near Stonewall. I didn’t want to take a bus tour of the whole damn ranch just to see his grave. The entire ranch is located across the Pedernales River from the Stonewall visitors’ center but I found a road across the bridge and a way into the ranch. The road was only for the tour buses, but I parked at the edge of it and walked in. I knew that Secret Service were on the premises since Lady Bird still lived there, but they’re all by the Texas White House, where she lives, another mile beyond the cemetery, so I figured they wouldn’t see me. The cemetery had a locked gate with a sign saying no admittance. Apparently, visitors are allowed to see LBJ’s grave only from the outside; however, it was surrounded only by a short stone wall, which I was able to hop over so I could go in and get a picture closer up.
Then I headed to San Antonio, to Mission Burial Park, where two Hall of Famers – Ross Youngs and Rube Waddell – are buried. Waddell was noted for his eccentricities, including his desire to be a fireman and his penchant for sometimes leaving a ballpark and chasing a fire engine that was passing by. When I got to his grave, I saw that someone had left a small toy on the tombstone as an offering. When I got closer, I saw that the toy was a fire engine. Nice touch. I headed back to Dallas, going through another traffic jam in Austin (at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon).
The next morning before my flight home, I did some sightseeing, stopping at the Cotton Bowl and at Dealey Plaza, where I bought a guide with maps of all the spots to visit. I followed Lee Oswald’s trail from the Book Depository to Texas Theater, where he was arrested. In between, I went to Mickey Mantle’s house, where I had been before in 1988 when The Mick was still alive (and when a co-worker and I drove through his circular driveway). For whatever reason, I went back to the cemetery to see Mickey’s crypt again. The card from the family and my business card were still there. The envelope on the family card wasn’t sealed, so I opened it (feeling a bit guilty) and looked at the card. It was dated at the top (8-13-99), and the inscription said, “Dad, You showed me how to fall with courage, and rise with grace. God Bless You. Love, Your son, David.” (The Mick was later moved to a different section within the same mausoleum, and I got back to that one. The link above shows both crypts.)
Over Memorial Day weekend, Brenda and I flew in and out of Albany to do all sorts of things – capitals, graves of presidents and Hall of Famers and others, ball games – in New England and New York. We went to Calvin Coolidge’s grave in Vermont and then up to Montpelier to see the capitol. On a past trip we had bypassed the capitals, but, now that they were on a list of things to knock off, we were making a special effort to get there. We had driven through Concord, New Hampshire, and past the capitol before, but this time we stopped to see the building and also go to Franklin Pierce’s grave nearby. We stayed overnight in Augusta, Maine, stopping at the capitol the next morning and going to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s grave in Maine and then heading to Boston.
In Quincy, we visited church where John Adams and John Quincy Adams are entombed. All we wanted to do was see the tombs, but we got stuck listening to the tour guide, who took us into the main part of the church, even though the dome wasn’t visible because of construction. We heard thunder, and I used that as an excuse that we better look at the tombs quickly since we wanted to get back to our car before it started raining too hard. He said we should just wait out the rain, but we were insistent. We went downstairs, looked at the tombs, and then went to the bathroom. As I was coming out of the bathroom, the fire alarm went off. They had to clear the place out. Good thing we saw the tombs before the alarm. As we were leaving Quincy, we drove past the church and saw fire engines out front. Brenda said, “If the place burns down, we could always say we were the last people to pee in there.”
In the Boston area we got to the graves of Hall of Famers Frank Selee, Eddie Collins, and Tommy Connolly. We hit Jesse Burkett in Worcester and then Rabbit Maranville (my 100th dead Hall of Famer) in Springfield before veering south to Roger Connor in Waterbury, Connecticut (an unmarked grave at the time although the photo in the link is from a later trip). We got to our hotel in Waterbury around 5. At the registration desk I saw a sign that said, “Welcome, Guest of the Day, Stew Thornley.” I asked how I got to be Guest of the Day and hoped it would be worth a free room or at least a free meal in the restaurant (especially since I hadn’t eaten all day). It was neither – just a free guest bag with some stuff like bottled water in it. They pick someone’s name every day off the reservation list and make that person the Guest of the Day.
The next day, Friday, w left the hotel at 5:15 a.m. and crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge into Queens at 6:45 and arrived at Young’s Cemetery, outside of Oyster Bay on Long Island, at 7:30. The cemetery, which contains Teddy Roosevelt (pronounced Roosevelt), wasn’t open until 9, but I climbed the gate, went in, and got a picture of the grave. We got to the graves of John Montgomery Ward in Uniondale and Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn. North of New York, we got Ford Frick in Bronxville as well as a non-Hall of Famer, Chet Hoff (longest-living major league baseball player, lived to 107) in Ossining. Since Brenda had not yet been to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, we did those graves before checking into a Ramada Inn in Elmsford.
We took the train into the city, getting off at the Fordham Station in the Bronx and then taking the subway down to Yankee Stadium. We walked across the Macombs Dam Bridge into Manhattan, past the Polo Grounds site, and went to the Morris-Jumel Mansion. We were too late to get into the mansion, but the grounds were still open. We went to the hospital at 165th and Broadway and saw the plaque marking home plate for Hilltop Park, the Yankees’ first ballpark. We took the subway to Columbia University, then walked down past the restaurant used for the exterior shot in Seinfeld. We walked along 110th Street from Broadway to Lexington, passing the original Polo Grounds site, and then down to 86th Street, where we caught the subway to Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-1 as Clay Bellinger (the dad of then four-year-old Cody Bellinger) homered by later killed a New York rally with boneheaded baserunning. The game was delayed at one point when a drunk fell over the railing on the upper deck onto the top of the protective screen behind home plate. The came did continue for a little while before Yankees manager Joe Torre came out and said it would be best to get the drunk off the screen before he got nailed with a foul ball.
Saturday we took the train into New York, walking around midtown before taking the subway back up to Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees hit four home runs and came back from a 3-0 deficit to win 8-3. It was the first game back for both shortstops, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter, who had been on the disabled list. When Garciaparra was up, the Red Sox fans yelled, “NO-MAR, NO-MAR!” A clever Yankees fan countered by yelling, “NO-FUCK, NO-FUCK!” Gotta love New Yorkers.
The next day we made good time getting to graves up the Hudson Valley, including Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers in Wappinger Falls and Franklin Roosevelt in Hyde Park. In Albany, we saw Chester Arthur’s grave and then crossed the Hudson River into Troy for Johnny Evers. We were so early at the Albany airport that we were able to get on a flight that got us home three hours earlier than scheduled (even flying first class on the first leg, to Detroit, since there were no seats left in coach, and were able to watch the final game of the Red Sox-Yankees series on television.
The following meeting I went to a workgroup meeting of the Drinking Water Academy at the EPA regional office in Seattle. I wanted to get to a couple Hall of Fame graves, so I contacted SABR member Eric Sallee (a descendent of Slim Sallee, who was the winning pitcher in a game for Cincinnati in the 1919 World Series). I think Eric had pictures on Findagrave.com of the graves I wanted to see, and I hoped he could provide some information on finding them. He went way better for that. He contacted other SABR members in the Seattle area (I don’t think there had been much of meeting among local members in the area up to that point, and this helped them to start getting organized) to see if they wanted to join the grave hunting and/or the Mariners’ game that Saturday night versus San Diego at Safeco Field. Eric picked me at the airport and Michael Stanger met us there. We went to Snohomish for Earl Averill and got to Amos Rusie back in Seattle along with a lot of other graves, including Jimi Hendrix, and the former site of Sick’s Stadium.
Although that was it for the Hall of Fame graves, there was a lot more. John Pastier and Steve Steinberg joined us for the game that night, and we had prime seats through Eric’s connections. I went to the next two games with comp tickets from the Mariners. On Wednesday night after my meetings, Eric picked me up, and we went to a minor-league game at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Eric once again getting great tickets through connections. What a host.
In June I went to the SABR convention in West Palm Beach. We went to a Marlins game as a group, but I got a credential for a game before the convention started and went to Miami, where before the game I got to the graves of Bill Klem and Max Carey.
In July I got a credential for the All-Star Game in Atlanta. I skipped the Futures Game on Sunday so I could get to some graves before taking in the baseball events. I also got up to Chattanooga for some Civil War exploring and a minor-league game, where I met and had a great chat with Twins scout and former manager Cal Ermer. He told me a great story about his managerial debut and being told by coach Billy Martin to keep an eye on the starting pitcher because “He has a ‘dose.’” (I won’t name the pitcher; you can look it up if you’re curious.) This was at BellSouth Park. Eight years before I had been to a game at Historic Joe Engel Stadium. Having some extra time before the game at the new ballpark, I went to Joe Engel Stadium, where there was a lot of activity. I ended up crashing (and integrating) a Jesus Festival. They were very nice and didn’t even charge me for the food. I also got to walk around the field of the stadium and get up close to the famous incline in left-center field. As for the Hall of Fame graves I eventually got to, they were Joe Sewell in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Johnny Mize and Luke Appling in Georgia (Demorest for Mize, Cumming for Appling).
In August I flew in and out of Buffalo, New York, and did a circuit of Lake Erie to go to games in Cleveland and Detroit and graves along the way. The flight to Buffalo was smooth and got in about ten minutes ahead of schedule. I was in a window seat in the back row (the side with only two seats). A young girl sat next to me with her folks in the next row up. The woman in the window seat across the aisle had a backpack too big to fit under the seat in front of her (the window seats getting less under-the-seat room), so she put it under the seat next to her. This caused a problem when a couple with a four-month-old baby, who occupied the middle and aisle seats on that side, showed up and said they needed the under-the-seat room for their stuff for the baby. I solved the problem by switching seats with the woman with the big backpack (figuring she could put it under the seat in front of the young girl next to me, who had nothing under her seat). Thus, I was in the window seat next to the woman with the baby. This woman thanked me for helping out and then let me know that she would be nursing her baby during the flight and hoped it wouldn’t bother me. “Oh, no,” I replied. “That would be fine.” I may have said it with too much enthusiasm since the woman immediately swapped seats with her husband, taking the aisle rather than the middle seat next to me, thereby depriving me of whatever in-flight entertainment she might have thought I had in mind.
In the Buffalo area the next morning, I got to Joe McCarthy and Jimmy Collins as well as a president, Millard Fillmore, and the site of William McKinley’s assassination. (What do William McKinley and the movie The Natural have in common? They were both shot in Buffalo.) I also got up to Niagara Falls. I stopped at Thurman Munson’s grave in Canton, Ohio, and went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame before getting to Jacobs Field that night for a long game in which Cleveland beat Anaheim 11-10 on a one-out, two-run homer by Jim Thome in the last of the ninth. Bob Feller was in the press box as was Terry Pluto – a wacky Cleveland sportswriter of whom it is said that he is the only reporter whose byline is also his address – spent the night getting Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray confused. He twice quoted Ray, not Oswald, as saying, “I’m just a patsy” and even used Ray’s name while making a reference to the grassy knoll. I guess he earned his reputation.
I drove partway toward Detroit and got a room for the night. The next day in the Detroit area I visited the graves of Hal Newhouser, Charlie Gehringer, Harry Heilmann, Norman “Turkey” Stearnes (unmarked at the time although the link is to a photo I took on a later trip), and Sam Thompson. I got a great parking spot (on the street, free, a block north of Comerica) for a Twins at Tigers game. During the top of the fifth inning (while I also watched Denny Hocking of the Twins hit a home run to right to break a 1-1 tie), I got to talk to Ernie Harwell about the Polo Grounds (he did a lot of announcing there, including a television broadcast for NBC of Bobby Thomson’s home run to win the 1951 pennant for the Giants). I gave Harwell a promotional flyer for my book on the Polo Grounds, which will be out in October. I doubt he ever did anything with it but was at least gracious in accepting it.
The Tigers beat the Twins, 4-3, in a game that featured four solo homers, three by the Tigers, including two by Billy McMillon and the first major league home run for Javier Cardova (Cardova’s and McMillon’s second home run being back-to-back). The game, which started at 5:05, ended at 7:35. I finished up, left the park, got to my car, and (helped by the great parking spot I had) got through traffic and onto I-75. I got onto the Ambassador Bridge, which crosses the Detroit River into Windsor, Ontario, at 8 p.m. and was through Canadian customs by 8:20. I then drove across southern Ontario and reentered the United States just north of Niagara Falls. The trip from Detroit back to my Red Roof Inn near the Buffalo airport was just over 300 miles, and I got to my room at around 1:15 a.m. It was a nice drive with the only problem being a moderate wait in line to get back into the United States and I really had to take a whiz. I was able to hold it.
In October, Howard Luloff, George Rekela, Paul Rittenhouse, and I went to see the Gophers play at Indiana. We flew into the Cincinnati airport (in northern Kentucky) and went to the graves of Miller Huggins, Waite Hoyt, Buck Ewing, Eppa Rixey, Branch Rickey, Jesse Haines, and Walter Alston in the Cincinnati area and beyond. We also got to the grave of another president, William McKinley, and then went back into Kentucky and headed to Louisville for the grave of Pee Wee Reese.
We continued west out of Louisville. Paul and I wanted to also get to Edd Roush in Oakland City, Indiana, but it was quite a bit out of the way of a direct route to Bloomington, where Indiana University is. Howard is pretty easy going and up for anything, but we figured George would be cranky about such a detour. However, he had fallen asleep in the back seat. Paul was driving and as we neared the exit for the highway that would take us to Bloomington, Paul gave me a look. “Keep going,” I muttered, and he did. Finally, in the southwest part of the state, he got off the freeway and headed north. At this point George woke up. He probably figured we were getting near our destination.
“Where the fuck are we?” he intoned. “Almost to Oakland City,” I replied. George looked at his map, probably peering in the area of Bloomington. He finally said, “Where the fuck is that?” I reached over the seat and pointed to Oakland City on the map, obviously far away from where he expected us to be. George had one last inquiry: “What the fuck are we doing here?”
We found Big Edd’s grave, got to Bloomington, and saw the Gophers get their asses kicked by Indiana the next day.
The final 2000 trip, five days in New York, was in a little more style because I had achieved Silver Elite status with Northwest Airlines. Earlier that year I had gone to Tokyo to see the first regular-season baseball games in Japan. Later, Brenda and I went to Holland, Scotland, and France. All these miles put me over the top for special status. I got a special Silver Elite tag to make sure the luggage handlers knew I was a special person and would handle by luggage with extra care (yeah, right). The big thing, however, is that you can get bumped up to first class automatically if there was room. It was only for one person, so if Brenda and I went somewhere together, we’d swap off on who got to sit in first class, although once in a while Northwest would be nice and let us both sit up there.
We were going to New York to do publicity for my book on the Polo Grounds, which had just come out. We did other fun things (it’s New York, after all), including a trip to the Cloisters, tours of the Morris-Jumel mansion and United Nations, a stop at the Dakota (on the 20th anniversary of John Lennon being shot there), a Rockettes performance at Radio City Music Hall, and dinner with Larry Ritter. Brenda also went to the opera (the opening night for Il Trovatore.) She told me it was a tough crowd. They didn’t like the stage set, and, at the curtain call, they booed the heck out of the artistic director. Also, during the opera, somebody’s cell phone went off. I asked the audience killed the offender. She said no, but that someone barking “Turn it off!” was audible through the entire place.
We stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel again, which got us access to Gramercy Park. This is my favorite part of New York, and I always love being able to walk around the area, even if I can’t get in the park. By Saturday, we had only more book event left – a talk and autograph session that night at the main Barnes & Noble store by Union Square. With the day free, we went on a grave-hunting trip along with Evelyn Begley (who had helped to line up the Barnes & Noble event), and Mike Frank, who also visits Hall of Fame graves. Mike brought along his transponder, which covers tolls and turned out to be a life saver for us that day.
I jogged from our hotel up to Avis on 43rd Street, got our rental car, and drove back to the hotel and picked up the others. We got to the graves in southern New Jersey of John Henry “Pop” Lloyd and Leon “Goose” Goslin. In Delaware we went to William “Judy” Johnson in Wilmington and Vic Willis in Newark. We stopped at Dave Smith’s house (Dave is the founder of Retrosheet and lives nearby Willis’s grave) and followed him to the cemetery. We had four more to get to in the Philadelphia area – Herb Pennock, Richie Ashburn, Harry Wright, and George Stacey Davis. We got done at 3:00 and knew we would be cutting it close for getting to Barnes & Noble for the book event at 5:30. We got to the Holland Tunnel around 5 and would have been in trouble if not for Mike’s transponder, which allowed us to bypass the long line of cars waiting to pay the toll. It was still slow going, and we were stuck in traffic on 16th Street when three of us jumped out of the car, leaving Mike to take the wheel and find a parking spot, and ran for Barnes & Noble, arriving with a minute to spare. There was a good turnout and it was a great night with eight of us going to a Chinese restaurant on 16th Street and Irving Place, about three blocks south of where Mike parked our car, after the event.
I had 137 Hall of Fame graves done by the end of 2000 and got three more in January 2001 when I flew in and out of Baton Rouge for graves and other sightseeing in that region. I was in Cooperstown for the ceremonies when Bill Foster was posthumously inducted in 1997. I didn’t have specific information about his gravesite, just that it was outside Alcorn, Mississippi, where he had been a player, coach and dean at Alcorn State University. Through David Whitney, who and succeeded Foster at Alcorn State (and also played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League), I found out he was in a small cemetery between the Natchez Trace Parkway and the Windsor Ruins.
After getting to Foster’s grave, I got up to Travis Jackson in Waldo, Arkansas. I did a swing through Texarkana and down through eastern Texas. The next morning I got back into Louisiana and to the grave of Ted Lyons in Edgerly. Done with Hall of Fame graves, I still had lots of fun left. I went to the capitol in Baton Rouge, where Huey Long was assassinated and buried on the grounds. I got to Pete Maravich’s grave outside Baton Rouge and headed to Bay St. Louis and Biloxi in Mississippi.
The next day I spent time in New Orleans, going to the National D-Day Museum and then the Aquarium of the Americas by the waterfront. Brenda had been there last September and ended up embarrassed when she reported to aquarium personnel that Bucky the Otter had his foot stuck in a tube. “That’s not his foot,” they informed her and added that some families had complained about Bucky’s auto-erotic performances but that he would get very onery if they took his tube away. As I entered, I asked the ticket taker where Bucky the Otter was. She told me that Buck (his real name, although good friends like Brenda and me call him Bucky) was on the second floor. I found the otter area and had to go do a couple different windows within the exhibit before I saw Bucky. He had his tube and was having a good time. So were the people watching him. “Obviously that one’s Buck and not Emma,” said one. Another replied, “You never see that on the Discovery channel.” I took a couple pictures of Bucky with his tube before he tired of it (or reached a self-inflicted orgasm although I didn’t see any otter pud floating around when he was done) and threw it up on a rocky ledge within the aquarium. After that he amused himself with a rubber ball and with Emma. There were a couple of signs with biographical information on Bucky and Emma. Bucky’s said he was born April 25, 1997 and that he enjoyed “lying and sleeping in ice bins, pulling artificial kelp around the exhibit, and playing with blue buoys.” It didn’t mention anything about his tube. I roamed around the place a little more and even got to reach into a small aquarium and pet a baby shark.
I walked back to my car, detouring through the French Quarter, and turned on the radio and searched for the station that would have the broadcast of the NFC title game. I tuned in just in time to hear the aftermath of another Giants touchdown that put them ahead of the Vikings, 24-0. I stopped at Metairie Cemetery and saw the mausoleum of Mel Ott (which I had visited before) and drove around the cemetery a bit (as, meanwhile, the Giants increased their lead to 34-0 and the half came to an end). I pulled into Baton Rouge just as the game was ending, with the Giants winning, 41-0.
I’m glad Bucky the Otter and I had a better day than the Vikings did.
With only about 40 Hall of Fame graves to go, I was determined to get to them all, especially after figuring out how to get to Martín Dihigo in Cuba. Dihigo was listed as being buried in Cienfuegos, Cuba. I wasn’t sure how to get more specific information about the cemetery and location along with how to get to Cuba, not a straightforward process for United States citizens. Brenda and I had been exploring the licensing for going to Cuba to see some baseball games, but I couldn’t figure it out. In November, SABR member Kit Krieger put out a call for a Cubaball tour. I contacted him right away to say Brenda and I were interested and asked about visiting Dihigo’s grave. Kit said he would get more information and put it on the itinerary.
It was a great trip, which included going to games in the Cuban National Series and to Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón in Havana, which has a couple of baseball monuments with boxes of bones of dead people inside them, including members of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame and at least one who was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
On our last full day, we went to a game in the city of Cienfuegos, on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Dihigo is in the province of Cienfuegos, in the city of Cruces. Before we went to the game, we went to Cruces. Martín Dihigo Jr. was there, along with a lot of the townspeople, who put on a reception and dance performance for us before we all headed to the cemetery to see Dihigo’s grave.
I lined up a bunch more trips so I could complete the Hall of Fame circuit within the next year. The travel was nice since I was usually able to fly first class with my special status with Northwest Airlines although the next venture was a driving trip in May. Cary Smith, Paul Rittenhouse, and I went to Kansas City for a couple of Red Sox-Royals game. On the way down we went to the graves of Warren Giles in Moline, Illinois; Cal Hubbard (who is also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) in Milan, Missouri; and Bullet Rogan and Hilton Smith in Kansas City.
We had great seats courtesy of Royals announcer Ryan Lefebvre to see Pedro Martinez pitch on Friday evening. There was one more cheap thrill that night. Back at the Super 8 after the game, Cary was going to stop by my room to pick something up, so I kept the door ajar. When I saw he had arrived, I wondered why he didn’t come in. It’s because of something he wanted me to see (or hear). He signaled for me to come out and go down the hall to the next door. By the time we got there, I figured out what it was going to be – the load moans and screams of a woman in the throes of passion, possibly with a partner or partners. I said to Cary that we ought to call their room, just to get the phone to ring and throw off her or their rhythm. Cary was all for it, but I let him know I was kidding and that it would be mean to do that. I guess I’ve matured since it’s the kind of thing I would have done in the past. The next morning we had breakfast in the room next to the front desk, and we heard people checking out, telling the clerk their room number. We were listening to see if the woman from the love room was checking out since we were ready to run out there to get a look at her. No such luck.
In June I went to Washington to speak at the American Water Works Association convention on an upcoming water education program we developed in Minnesota. I went out several days early and did a big circuit that got me up to Massachusetts and back. I started with Lefty Grove in Frostburg, Maryland, and then got into southern Pennsylvania for Nellie Fox in St. Thomas and Eddie Plank in Gettysburg. I got to the Scranton area and to Hughestown for Bucky Harris in Hughestown before calling it a day. The next day were two more in the area – Nestor Chylak in Peckville and Hugh Jennings in Moscow – before cruising across New Jersey and New York into Connecticut. There I got to Jim O’Rourke in Stratford, George Weiss in New Haven, and Morgan Bulkeley in Hartford as well as back to Roger Connor’s grave, which now had a headstone, in Waterbury. In Massachusetts were Jack Chesbro in Conway, Candy Cummings in Ware, and Sliding Billy Hamilton in Lancaster. I also got to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.
The next morning, Saturday, I drove into New York and did a circuit of Manhattan Island before heading to Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery, but, being the Sabbath, the cemetery was closed. I went to the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum to see the note I had left at his grave in 2005 (someone had told me about it being there). It was in a display case about his death, funeral, and grave. I went to a suburb for the grave of Leon Day and then south and across the Chesapeake Bay for Frank “Home Run” Baker. The next day I went back to Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery for Rube Marquard and back to Washington for Smokey Joe Williams, just outside the capital in Suitland, Maryland. That made 16 new Hall of Fame graves on the trip.
In July a bunch of us went to Milwaukee for the SABR convention, which included a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Rather than take the bus with the group to Chicago, we drove and first went to the graves of Urban “Red” Faber, Freddie Lindstrom, and Gabby Hartnett.
I had a trip planned for Boston to see Red Sox games and graves, leaving the evening of Wednesday, July 25. In the meantime, the Drinking Water Academy (part of the EPA) scheduled a meeting in Reno for Monday and Tuesday of that week. I thought it might be too much to go to that one and then to Boston. However, one of the graves I needed to get to, that of Arky Vaughan, is in Eagleville in the northeast part of California. It’s next to nothing, and I wondered about the best way to get there. Finally, it dawned on me that Reno would be a good jumping off point. I flew into Reno the previous Friday and was on the road by noon, arriving in Eagleville, 172 miles away, at 3:30. There had been a couple of delays because of construction on the two-lane highway in northwestern Nevada.
I didn’t have any specific information on finding Vaughan’s grave. Eagleville has a post office and a store, but both were closed. Fortunately, someone drove up to the post office when I was there and pointed out the location of the cemetery. The cemetery was surrounded by a chain-link fence, topped with barbed-wire, but the gate was unlocked. A burro grazed in a field just to the north as I walked through the cemetery and found Vaughan’s grave.
I drove to the Bay Area and the next morning got to Colma for Joe DiMaggio. I went to Giants games that afternoon and on Sunday and then went to Reno for the meetings. Tuesday night I flew home, going through Las Vegas and being on a red-eye flight out of there that got into Minneapolis at 6:00 Wednesday morning.
I went home and repacked, went to the office, and that night flew to Boston. I drove to Cape Cod, arriving around 10:30. The next morning I went to the grave of Joe Cronin in Centerville and then did some sightseeing in the area and in Rhode Island before driving up to Boston, checking into a hotel on Commonwealth Avenue, right on the trolley line.
I hate driving in Boston but I felt better because I would have a guide on Friday. SABR member Paul Wendt had already been to some of the graves, and he knew the city well enough to give me directions. We went to the Hall of Fame graves of Tim Keefe, John Clarkson, George Wright, Tommy McCarthy, Mike “King” Kelly, and Hugh Duffy. The final ones were in Mattapan, and the plan was to drive back to Boston, refilling the gas tank on the way, and drop the car off at the Hertz office near Boston Common. I always feel good when I don’t have a car in Boston, and I felt a sense of relief as I pulled into the Hertz garage. However, then I realized I had forgotten to get gas. The tank was nearly empty, and the rental-car companies charge an inflated rate to fill the tank. We found a gas station less than two miles away, but driving through the heart of Boston – something I hate – took 45 minutes.
Finally free of the car, Paul and I roamed around Boston Common a bit and took the subway/trolley back to the hotel. I got a little rest (not as much as I would have if not for the gas snafu) and went to games at Fenway Park that night and the next.
A couple weeks later, I flew to Cincinnati to go to some games (Cincinnati and the new ballpark in Pittsburgh). There was only one Hall of Fame grave, Earle Combs in Richmond, Kentucky. I got into Cincinnati late at night and to Richmond early the next morning. I got to Combs’s grave and did some exploring on my way to Pittsburgh.
I had only nine Hall of Fame graves left and already had three trips lined up to get to them. However, the morning after being at the Pirates game, I found out that Lou Boudreau had died. I would have to add in another trip. Fortunately, Boudreau was going to be buried in the Chicago area, which wouldn’t be difficult to get to. I decided to get to the grave when it was fresh and decided to go to the funeral the following Thursday. There wasn’t a big crowd although Bob Feller was there. After the service, I ended up whizzing next to Feller, the first Hall of Famer I ever rubbed shoulders with in the comfort station. We all went to the cemetery for the burial and then back to the church for free food.
I got to two more Hall of Famers in November when George Rekela, Jerry Janzen, Paul Rittenhouse and I went to see the Gophers play at Michigan. We flew into Detroit and drove more than 500 miles, first to Cass City for Larry MacPhail, and then around Saginaw Bay and up Lake Huron to Harrisville for Kiki Cuyler before driving back and staying in Ann Arbor. We went to Hall of Fame graves I had already been to in the Detroit area, saw the Gophers lose to Michigan, and went to a Detroit Lions game before coming home.
Willie Stargell had died in April of 2001, so I planned a trip to Wilmington, North Carolina, in December. I called the cemetery where he was listed as buried, but they would not confirm that he was there. I knew Stargell was a private person, and the cemetery was respecting that privacy. If they wouldn’t even confirm that he was in the cemetery, I knew they wouldn’t provide an exact location. I contacted a SABR member in Wilmington, Rich Pray, and asked if he could learn anything. Rich was great. He went to the cemetery and looked around for a while but didn’t find Stargell. However, he found a caretaker on the grounds who apparently didn’t know that the cemetery didn’t want the location given out. The caretaker took Rich to Stargell’s still-unmarked vault in an outdoor mausoleum. Rich went back later and by that time there was a bronze nameplate on the vault. Rich drew a map of the cemetery and took a bunch of Polaroid photos, which matched up to certain parts of the cemetery that he marked on the map. With that, it was easy to find it.
After visiting the grave, I drove to the CVS where Rich is a pharmacist. He was on duty, and I was able to thank him for his help. I drove to Maryland for Sam Rice. I hadn’t gone there on other trips to the area, because Rice was listed as being cremated. However, I found out from Bob Bailey of SABR that Rice was buried between Washington and Maryland, so I got to that.
Now I was set to finish off the list with a trip to southern California in January 2002 (as long as no one else died in the meantime). I flew into San Diego and drove to the cemetery for Bid McPhee. I couldn’t find him in the mausoleum, so I went to the office across the street. Joe, an employee, came back to the mausoleum and helped me find McPhee, who was in an urn behind glass in one of the niches. The engraving on the urn was faint, so I asked Joe if he could take the glass panel off so I could take a picture. He was very nice, letting me know he wasn’t supposed to, but since this was a relative (at least I told him it was my mom’s grandfather and that she really wanted me to get a photo of it for her), he got a screwdriver and got the panel off. I took a photo of the urn, and he then asked if I wanted him to take it out of the niche and put it on a table so I could get a better picture of it (letting me know once again that he really wasn’t supposed to do this). It was probably the first time Bid McPhee got out for air since he was put into that niche in 1943. Joe refused my offer of five bucks and gave me directions for the fastest way to get back to Interstate 5 to get to Los Angeles.
At Forest Lawn Glendale, Don Drysdale was my first target in the Great Mausoleum, which is private. However, I had learned from other grave hunters that a little bullshit is all that’s required to get in. The mausoleum has a Last Supper window/show that is a big attraction and that the public is let in to see it. The woman at the entry desk told me the next showing would be 4:00 (10 minutes away) and that I could roam around a bit before that. A. J. Marik, who had posted a photo on the Find-a-Grave web site of the Utility Columbarium, in which Don Drysdale is interred, had responded to my e-mail request for instructions some months back. He told me that the Utility Columbarium is nothing more than a storage closet, used for the ashes of people who are unclaimed.
I found the Last Supper window and spotted the stairways A. J. told me to look for. There was a chain across the staircases, but there was no one around, so I slipped under the chain and went down the stairs. There was a gate before the next stairs, but it was slightly open, so I went through and continued down. I went down another flight or two of stairs before finally spotting the door to the Utility Columbarium (helped greatly by the photo that A. J. had posted on Find-a-Grave). I shined the flashlight through the metal grate on the opening, then took a picture through it as well as a picture of the door. I figured that this counted as being there, so Drysdale went into the book as my 181st Hall of Fame grave. I left the Great Mausoleum, passing the lady who had granted me access, muttering an excuse about leaving something in the car.
I headed up the hill to the Court of Freedom, where Casey Stengel is buried. It was a little after four, and I decided to still try and make it to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, where Leo Durocher is buried, before they closed and/or it got too dark. Helped by the map of Hollywood graves I had purchased from Find-a-Grave (this probably would have been impossible without it), I found the graves of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson as well as Ricky Nelson, two rows up from his folks. Then, following the directions from the map, I walked 19 graves to the left and found Leo Durocher, number 183. This put me only one away.
I checked into a Super 8, awaiting the big finish the next morning. I was up early and got to Santa Barbara around 8:30 and found the grave for Eddie Mathews, the final one. I thought about the entire journey (actually, 41 separate journeys) it took to get to every Baseball Hall of Fame grave. I’m not that introspective so I didn’t linger long, getting back into the car and turning on the radio. There was the usual bad news, the biggest being the volcanic eruption in the Congo that has left nearly half-a-million people homeless, but no news of any Hall of Famers dying in the last day or two, confirming that I had completed the list.
Done with Hall of Famers, I spent the rest of day back in Los Angeles, going to the graves of Hollywood types, such as Stan Laurel, Jack Webb, and Larry Fine. I also made it to the grave of a future Hall of Famer, Biz Mackey. Larry Lester of SABR told me that Mackey was a good candidate for the Hall of Fame. He was right; he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, and I already had him out of the way.
As of January 2002 I was current with 184 Hall of Fame graves, but I knew it wouldn’t last. Hall of Famers would keep dying, and dead people would continue to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Fewer than six months later, Enos Slaughter died, and Hoyt Wilhelm expired nine days later. I didn’t get to any more graves until November 2003.
I was going to Washington for another Drinking Water Academy meeting, and I figured I could get to Slaughter’s grave in northern North Carolina. I decided to make the trip more challenging by going out early to get to Cooperstown to do research at the Hall of Fame for a book I was writing on Minnesota baseball history. I few into Rochester, New York, and got to the grave of Bud Fowler on the way to Cooperstown and to Emmett Ashford in Cooperstown. (Neither is in the Hall of Fame although there is still a chance that someday Fowler will get elected.)
I was done with my research by Monday afternoon and got to Petersburg, Virginia, about 530 miles away, that night. The next morning I went into Allenstown, North Carolina, for Enos Slaughter, before going back north to Washington for meetings and some more sightseeing.
In March 2004, I drove to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a multi-day meeting of SABR’s Deadball Era Committee, which included a tour of long-ago spring-training sites in Hot Springs. I took my time getting down there, going through Commerce, Oklahoma, where Mickey Mantle grew up and to Hartshorne, Oklahoma, for the grave of Warren Spahn, who had died soon after I had gotten to Slaughter’s grave. By this time I had a GPS unit, and I was starting to note the longitude and latitude of the graves, which I could add on my web site. Over time, I made it back to previously visited graves to get the coordinates. Before visiting Spahn’s grave on this trip, I got back to the one for Joe McGinnity to get the GPS coordinates. I later did the same for Bill Dickey in Little Rock.
Also, other grave hunters were compiling this information and getting it to me for the website. Sometimes it came in handy. In May 2004 Brenda and I went to Florida to see the Yankees play a weekend series against Tampa Bay. This also gave me a chance to get to Sarasota for the grave of Hoyt Wilhelm. I had the coordinates and entered them into my GPS unit. When we got to the approximate area in the cemetery, Brenda took the GPS unit and followed it until she found the grave.
With Wilhelm, I was once again current – all 187 Hall of Fame graves. That lasted until October 2005, when Al Lopez died. Early the next year, a special committee elected 17 Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues players and executives to the Hall of Fame. All 17 were dead. I had already been to a few, including Biz Mackey. Also, Cristóbal Torriente and José Méndez were reportedly in the baseball monuments we had visited in Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón in Havana in 2001, although Ralph Carhart later learned that Torriente might be buried New York (more on that later).
In the spring of 2006 I started visiting the others. Effa Manley is buried in the Los Angeles area, and I got to her grave in April when I went to baseball games in southern California. The following month I went to the National Association of Government Communicators convention in Baltimore. By going out a few days early and flying into National Airport outside Washington, I was able to work my way up to New York and get to the graves of seven of the people elected by the special committee: Jud Wilson in Arlington National Cemetery, Ben Taylor outside Baltimore, Louis Santop in Philadelphia, Sol White in Staten Island, Mule Suttles and Frank Grant in New Jersey, and Alex Pompez in the Bronx.
I got to more over the rest of 2006 on three separate trips. In August, a group of us went to baseball games in Kansas City, getting to the grave of J. L. Wilkinson in the latter city. In late October, we went to Ohio State to see the Gophers get shut out by the Buckeyes. On the way we stopped in Dayton, Ohio, for Ray Brown. I earlier had talked to Darren, the sexton for the cemetery, who gave me the grave location information and said they were raising money for marker for the grave, which was still unmarked. I sent some money for the project. When we got to the cemetery, I called Darren, who took us to the grave site and placed a picture of the marker they were developing on it. In Columbus we went to a couple cemeteries. Besides the grave of Woody Hayes, we got to some others, including that of a person who later was serendipitously elected to the Hall of Fame.
In December I flew to Dallas and did a circuit of the state, getting to the graves of two more players who had been elected by the special committee: Andy Cooper in Waco and Willard Brown in Houston.
I went to Orlando in May 2007 because the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were playing a series against the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista. I thought it would be fun to see games in a non-regular site, and it also afforded a chance to get to the grave of Al Lopez, who had died about a year-and-a-half earlier, in Tampa. I had been told that the cemetery was secretive about the location of Lopez’s crypt. Somehow I knew that Lopez’s wife, Evelyn, was dead and knew the date of her death. I wrote to the cemetery and asked for the location of Evelyn’s grave, along with her death date, figuring they might be more likely to provide the information for a non-celebrity. For good measure, I asked for the grave of Esther Thornley (my grandma), who died in January 1969. I knew they wouldn’t have that, since my grandma was buried in Minneapolis, but by asking for a grave of someone with the same last name, the cemetery might figure that these were relatives of mine – both of them – and be more likely to provide the location for Evelyn Lopez. That’s what happened. The cemetery wrote back, apologetic about not having a record for Esther Thornley but providing the information I needed for Evelyn Lopez, who, of course, is entombed with Al.
I later got a couple more out of the way without leaving home. Walter O’Malley and Billy Southworth were elected to the Hall of Fame for induction in 2008. I had been to O’Malley’s grave outside Los Angeles in June of 1999. Southworth was the person whose grave I had been to on the Ohio State trip in October 2006.
I made a big trip east in the summer of 2007 with ball games at Yankee Stadium and a bunch of vice president’s graves on the itinerary. By this time, I had added vice presidents to my list of sought-after graves. Leaving just after midnight on June 30, I drove more than 1,130 miles before stopping for the night in Utica, New York. I went around the top of the state the next day and back down for a while. I went into Massachusetts, nearly all the way to Boston, and went to the grave of dead vice-president Henry Wilson, who was in the same cemetery as Tommy Connolly. Although I had been to Connolly’s grave before, I went to it again to get the GPS coordinates. I stayed north of New York City, taking the train in for sightseeing on Monday and Tuesday and a Yankees game Tuesday night. I also went to Brooklyn for Gil Hodges’s grave, just in case he is ever elected to the Hall of Fame. On Wednesday, Independence Day, I drove into New York and parked on 155th Street, on the viaduct overlooking the Polo Grounds site, and walked across the Macombs Dam bridge for an afternoon game. The game ended at 4:00 and I got back to my car at 4:30, taking off and going toward downtown to take the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey. Instead of going through northern Pennsylvania, the shortest way home, I dropped down to the southern part of the state to head toward Pittsburgh. After a speeding ticket and later a nap in the car at a truck stop outside Pittsburgh, I went to the Homestead area of the city and got to the grave of Cum Posey around 6:00. I then drove the rest of the way home.
Barney Dreyfuss and Bowie Kuhn were also elected to the Hall of Fame in the same class as O’Malley and Southworth, so I added them to the list of graves I needed to get to. I went to a regional conference of American Water Works Association in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in May 2008. After the workshops finished, on a Saturday afternoon, I drove to Pittsburgh for Dreyfuss and then drove back to the Detroit airport, arriving so late that I didn’t get a room, opting instead to sleep in the rental car before returning home on a Sunday morning flight.
In late August I went to Baltimore to see a three-game series against the Yankees and then to games in Philadelphia and the new stadium in Washington. In between those games, after the Sunday finale in Baltimore, I headed to Long Island, where Kuhn is buried. The Sunday game in Baltimore was a long one (4 hours, 1 minute) and I didn’t hit the road until after 6:15. It took me nearly seven hours to reach my hotel in Commack, New York (getting there at 1:16 a.m.). Traffic was heavy all the way. Some of it may have been a lot of New Yorkers heading home after the Yankees series in Baltimore, but it was still heavy beyond that. There were numerous delays because of construction and/or accidents. I stopped at a couple of the freeway plazas for gas and food and then to whiz and get a bottle of pop. They were crowded but it didn’t take to long to get in and out of there. When the freeway split, I could see there was a big backup to get to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, so I stayed to the left and followed the freeway around Wilmington and eventually got on the New Jersey Turnpike. Directions from Mapquest and also on my GPS navigator unit directed me to go through Manhattan, which seemed crazy. Instead, I cut across Staten Island, crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (which I always enjoy doing), and went through Brooklyn and Queens to get to Commack.
The hotel in Commack (Howard Johnson Express Inn) was one of the seediest I have stayed at for a long time. There was a woman at the counter ahead of me, who may have been a hooker with this being her regular romping spot. She was kind of brassy and chatty (talking to me although not propositioning for business). She had to take care of a bill from a 10-day stay and then she was checking back in. I finally got registered and up to my room. It was hard to get much light. A light bulb was missing from one of the lamps, and I couldn’t get the light to turn on in the bathroom at all. It didn’t matter, because all I did was whiz, and the darkness may have been a blessing. It was hard to see, but it looked like there was toilet paper already in the toilet. I couldn’t tell if anything was under it and didn’t want to know anyway. I went to bed and awoke around 5:30. I pulled the curtains open to get a little more light in the room and noticed something sticky on the curtains. I didn’t want to know what it was.
I drove to Quogue Cemetery, unsure if I’d be able to find Kuhn’s grave. It had been difficult just finding out what cemetery he was in. A friend of the family, who asked that his name not be used, tipped me off about the cemetery in Quogue. A few weeks before I called someone connected with the cemetery, who confirmed his was in The Quogue Village Cemetery and said she would send a map with directions to the cemetery and the grave. When I didn’t get a map in the mail, I called back a week later and talked to someone, who said the Kuhn family was still trying to decide whether to allow them to give me that information. I never heard from her again, but I was happy, from my previous calls, to know where the cemetery was and to confirm that Kuhn was buried there. Even though I didn’t have an exact location for the grave, it wasn’t too large a cemetery, and I found it after about 15 to 20 minutes of roaming. With that out of the way, I was free to head back and go to games in Philadelphia and New York over the next few days.
Over the next decade, the visits to graves slowed to a trickle, although I got another one in without traveling with the election of someone whose grave I had already been to.
George Kell died in March 2009, so Brenda and I planned a June trip to the Ozarks in northern Arkansas, where he is buried in Swifton. We got to a Twins game in Kansas City on the way home.
One player, Pete Hill, who had been elected by the special Negro Leagues committee in 2006 had remained a mystery regarding his final whereabouts. A lot of SABR members who track such things – Bob Bailey, Fred Worth, Mike Frank, and Bill Lee – were able to determine the grave locations for most of the 17 Negro League/pre-Negro League players inducted in 2006, but Pete Hill remained elusive. Since Hill died in Buffalo, New York, we got in touch with some SABR members in the area. Howard Henry, a professor at Buffalo SUNY, said he might even make this a class project. Joe Marren went through Buffalo newspapers.
Along the way, it came out that Hill’s real first name was John, not Joseph (which also resulted in a corrected plaque at the Hall of Fame). A bunch of death certificates surfaced with his name, but it was apparent that these weren’t for the Hall of Famer Hill. Eventually the correct death certificate was found although his death date was about three weeks later than what had been noted previously. A Buffalo funeral home was listed on the certificate, but the burial location was listed as Chicago. Howard Henry checked out the funeral home and found that Hill’s remains were sent to Chicago in late 1951.
Jeremy Krock and others started checking with Chicago cemeteries. Gary Ashwill made contact with the Hill family. From all the e-mails I have on this, I know that Patrick Rock, Tim Copeland, Zann Nelson, and Rod Nelson were also involved.
On Monday, November 8, 2010 we got a message from Jeremy that he got inspiration last Saturday by watching a show about Chess Records of Chicago (a record company). He then surfed the web to find the gravesites of some of the blues players from Chicago and saw some of the usual cemeteries, such as Burr Oak. However, one of the main characters from the movie was buried in a smaller cemetery, which prompted Jeremy to check out some of them on Monday. He hit the jackpot on his second call when he found that John P. Hill was buried December 28, 1951 at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. It’s an unmarked grave, so there will be a fundraising effort to purchase a marker. Two days later I drove to Chicago and the next morning went to the cemetery. I got there around 8 and roamed around until the office opened at 8:30. A woman gave me a map of Section 36 and noted the names on some large markers near the road on the south end of the section (Gaynor, Parjcyk, Pickens). Hill’s unmarked grave would be four rows behind them and a bit to the right, to the right of some plots for the Davis family. I found one flat-stone marker for Frank Perry Davis and figured Hill was a couple spots to the right. I took a picture of the ground and got the GPS coordinates. In 2017, I got back to the grave, which by that time had a marker, which is the photo used in the above link.
Bob Feller died the following month. Midway through 2011, I asked Paul Rittenhouse about flying to Cleveland to see his grave. Paul was a gate agent for Mesabi Airlines and can fly stand-by on Delta. He can also use a buddy pass to bring a friend. I said I’d pay for my buddy pass ($98) and for a rental car if he could line it up. We flew to Cleveland the morning of Thursday, June 2 and drove to Gates Mills, 30 miles away, and found Feller’s grave. With some time to kill, we went to Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, where we have been before. We revisited James Garfield’s grave and went to other graves before heading back to the airport, where we found that we had a problem. Because an earlier Cleveland to Minneapolis flight had been canceled because of mechanical problems, passengers were rebooked onto the 3:18 p.m. flight, which we had hoped to take, and there were no seats left. There was a 2:54 Cleveland to Atlanta flight we could take and then get on a flight home from Atlanta, but it seemed to be too late to do that. However, a friendly gate agent, Nicole, checked and told us that the flight to Atlanta had been delayed because of mechanical problems and wouldn’t be leaving until around 4:30. Nicole rebooked us on the flights to Atlanta and then to Minneapolis. It was a roundabout route but we made it home that night.
I knocked off another Hall of Fame grave without leaving home when Jacob Ruppert was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame for 2013. I had been to his grave, which is in the same cemetery as Lou Gehrig and Ed Barrow, in 1997. Hank O’Day was also elected with Ruppert, so I went to Chicago in February 2013 to get to his grave in Evanston.
Ernie Banks died in early 2015. Our SABR convention in late June was in Chicago, which could be convenient if that’s where he was buried. It was still a mystery, however, until I heard from a SABR member in Chicago, Mike Bojanowski, in early June. He suspected that Graceland Cemetery, a little north of Wrigley Field and also the gravesite of William Hulbert, would be the likely place. Michael wrote:
I am a lifelong cemetery bug, and in my lifelong neighborhood there is a jewel among boneyards, Graceland Cemetery. I have haunted the place, so to speak, for over forty years, and know it about as well as any of the professional guides. Back in the day I used to give informal tours to Eddie Gold and his SABR cronies, now themselves, alas, departed.
When Ernie died I figured Graceland as his likeliest possible Chicago resting place, and on my regular visits I began looking out for indications. Some necessary dates: Ernie died Jan 23, the public funeral was Jan 31. I was at Wrigley when the procession made its stop there. It then went a half-mile north on Clark Street, and I was certain would turn east into the cemetery gate at Irving Park Road, but instead turned west on Irving, at which moment the media coverage was ended, at family request. From that point Ernie's remains have remained a mystery.
Almost immediately the public and legal struggle over the estate began, and not until Feb 17 was it revealed, by county records and an attorney's statement, that Ernie had been buried at Graceland Feb 6, one week after the funeral.
On Feb 9, (three days after the still-secret burial, and only several days after an historic blizzard), while doing a regular walk-through at Graceland, I noted a new grave in one of the "high-rent districts". I thought this might be Ernie's, it was the only site over which the massive snowfall had been cleared, so there were no other new graves made at that time. After the Feb 17 statements I was sure of it, and have since followed its progress with interest. I began photographing Feb 22, and can document it to the present. It is unmarked, and has had no ornamentation or decoration throughout. Indeed, it seems everything has been done to make it as nondescript as possible. Over the course of time, it has been given the usual sequence of treatment as all other new winter graves at Graceland: fallow, graded, sodded, fallow again, and now the usual maintenance mowing. In another few weeks it will have blended into the landscape so thoroughly that no one will recognize it as a grave.
Among the current points of legal contention is the final disposition of Ernie's remains, the county documents state he was buried under a court order obtained by his estranged wife. Thus it seems unlikely the grave will be marked while that dispute is active. The public services and preparations (casket, visitation, etc), were arranged by Ernie's late-life "caretaker", the other party in the dispute, who supported cremation. It was also made public that the Cubs paid for the funeral home expenses, but I assume this didn't cover the cemetery costs, which are likely greater. The interment must have been managed by the wife, (whose attorney confirmed the burial), and those expenses are probably separate. This, too, mitigates against marking of the grave anytime soon.
Graceland continues to be ambiguous, at best, regarding Ernie's presence there. Early on they denied he was there at all. They may be acting under orders, and, it cannot be positively ruled out that Ernie is not there, though the county documents and public statements seem conclusive. Another possible factor, Graceland is a staid place, with conservative decorating and visiting rules. Should Ernie's precise location become public knowledge, a parade of fans leaving behind toys, trinkets, and other flotsam of contemporary public bereavement may flood the place. Graceland, for all the fame of many of its residents, has never remotely seen the like of that.
My claim to the identity of the site is entirely circumstantial. I considered volunteering to conduct a tour of Graceland during convention week, but with the intervening absence of any official confirmation of exact location it would be irresponsible to proceed. So it stands, I can go into more formal detail if it becomes necessary. Perhaps in the weeks before the convention something will come to light, or maybe a more willful investigator will be able to pry it out of them. Find-a-Grave lists Ernie at Graceland, but gives nothing more specific. Ernie's Wikipedia bio says he is there. Graceland's Wikipedia article states he is not there, "though Graceland is noted on the death certificate". Go figure.
By the time of the convention a few weeks later, Mike seemed more sure that he had the right spot. A few of us met up with Mike at the convention and took a cab to the gravesite. The cab waited for us while we took pictures and got the GPS coordinates. It turns out that Mike was correct with all of his assumptions. The spot we visited was Banks’s grave. Later, a marker went up for his grave. I got to it in 2017 when I also got to the grave of Pete Hill, which finally had a marker. The photo in the link above for Banks is of the marker in 2017.
In early 2016 I got another shot at Cristóbal Torriente. It was thought that he was in one of the baseball monuments in Havana. However, Ralph Carhart and others later concluded that he was buried in New York, in Calvary Cemetery in the Queens, the same one that has Wee Willie Keeler and Mickey Welch. Ralph worked with Calvary Cemetery to determine the exact spot of Torriente’s grave. They also put up a small cross with his name on it. Brenda, Kyle Traynor, and I flew to New York in January 2016 for our official scorer meetings, and I arranged with Ralph to meet him at the cemetery. I hoped we could stop there in a cab on our way to our hotel in Manhattan. It seemed a little weird, and I hoped we could find a cab driver who wouldn’t be too freaked out by such a request.
We got into JFK Airport and found a willing driver, Leo, who didn’t have an official cab but a livery/gypsy cab. The livery cabs are more expensive, but he had a nice big SUV and was up for the adventure of stopping at a cemetery on the way to our hotel. New York had a big snowstorm a week before, but much of it was gone. We met Ralph at the cemetery office and followed him to the grave. I have a bum leg these days, the result of surgery to remove a big-ass tumor from my leg in 2014. Kyle helped me through the uneven terrain, much of it still covered by snow, to get to the grave. Getting back to the road was a challenge since the plowed snow was higher at the curb. Kyle and Leo helped me. I decided I’ve give Leo a big tip. I knew the cab fare would be high, but I was still surprised when it was over $183. I added in a 30 percent tip, which was about $50. When we got to the hotel I gave Leo another $20 in cash, bringing the total ride to $258.68. It was worth it.
I ended up with four more surgeries on my hip in 2016, the first one in February. Brenda was redoing the kitchen along with the floors in the kitchen and dining room and wanted me out of the house for a while, fearing that I would fall through a hole in the floor. I went to Florida for spring training in March. I arrived in Tampa on a Sunday and drove across the state to the Atlantic coast to get to the grave of Gary Carter. Starting the next day, I went to games in different cities for four straight days. As I was getting back to my hotel on Thursday after a game in Lakeland, I felt something dripping down my leg. It was blood. The stitches from my February surgery weren’t holding, and the wound was leaking. It was two days before I was scheduled to go home, and I wanted to wait until then to have to go to the hospital. I taped a couple hotel towels around it and went to another game, in Tampa, the next day. Blood was leaking out again after the game, so I stopped at a Walgreen’s to buy some sanitary napkins. I figured they’d be absorbent and would help stop the bleeding until I could get home. I got them, they worked, and the best thing was that the guy at Walgreen’s told me if I bought these I could ride horses, go swimming, and do all sorts of other fun things. (Yeah, that’s an old joke, but so what?) When I got home, on Friday, I called the doctor and was told to come into the clinic. I thought it would just be a few more stitches, but it was a bigger deal than that. As a result, before I even got home, I ended up back in the hospital, where they did more surgery, for two days. It was still a good trip.
I planned a trip in June 2017 to Illinois and St. Louis for Deacon White and Stan Musial. White had been elected to the Hall of Fame along with Jacob Ruppert and Hank O’Day, and I had hoped to visit his grave when I went to Chicago in 2013 to see O’Day’s grave. I couldn’t find White’s grave, though. By this time I had better information on the location of White’s grave. Also, Musial had died in January 2013. I finally decided to get them both on a trip that could include a Cardinals game. I got a press pass for a Saturday game and contacted Steve Gietschier, who has a lifetime Baseball Writers’ Association of America pass. He said he would plan to go to the game, too. On Friday, 6-9 (nice), I went down through Illinois, stopping at White’s grave. I got to St. Louis and to Musial’s grave around 5:00 in the afternoon. The next morning I visited some sites of previous ballparks in St. Louis, got to the game and met Steve in the press box. We had a nice time sitting together for the game and I headed home after the game, arriving around 3:00 Sunday morning.
In June of 2019 the SABR convention was in San Diego, giving us the chance to get to two Hall of Fame graves after flying in: Duke Snider in Fallbrook, in between San Diego and Los Angeles, and Tony Gwynn in Poway, just outside of San Diego.
In October that year, Art Mugalian, Paul Rittenhouse, and I drove to New Jersey to see the Gophers play at Rutger’s. On the way, we went to Jim Bunning in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, outside Cincinnati. Two days later we got to Yogi Berra in East Hanover, New Jersey, and then to Scarsdale, New York for Lee MacPhail.
Tracking MacPhail down had taken a while after he died in November 2012. Sometime after that, when Andy MacPhail was president of the Baltimore Orioles, he was at Target Field when the Orioles played there. I chatted him up a bit, asking him about his grandpa, Larry MacPhail, and telling him I had been to his grandpa’s grave in Cass City, Michigan. I asked Andy if his dad, Lee, was buried there, too. Andy said his dad was in Scarsdale, New York. I was just happy that Andy didn’t seem bugged by such questions and didn’t press for more details. I should have. I thought I could call the cemeteries in Scarsdale and get the exact location. No luck. It turns out Lee is not in a cemetery.
In June 2017 the SABR convention was in New York, and our group went to a Mets game against the Phillies. By this time MacPhail was with the Phillies and was in the press-box dining room at CitiField before the game. I wormed my way into a conversation with him and finally broached (or re-broached) the topic of the grave site of his dad. Andy said his dad, mom, and stepmom (who was Minnesota governor Mark Dayton’s first wife) are at St. James the Less Church in Scarsdale, on the grounds of the church, in a columbarium on the outside brick wall of the church.
When we got to the church, we were able to get someone to lead us to the columbarium and open the door for us so that we could see the crypt for Lee MacPhail and his two dead wives.