There’s a woman buried in my hometown cemetery, Bessie Anderson Stanley, who years ago wrote a nice poem that has in the last decade been bastardized into millions of “Love, laugh, live” signs that now unfortunately grace many a kitchen and living room. I doubt her estate is getting any royalties off her work.
Cemeteries do hold some interesting stories. A few years ago, my mother, who is a genealogy whiz, informed me that several of our relatives were buried in the Washington, Iowa cemetery. My wife and I drove there one hot July day. Having never been to Washington, we drove down the main drag, made a couple of lefts and lo and behold came upon a cemetery. About ten feet in, there were the graves of my long-lost ancestors. We took pictures of the headstones, then retreated to the air-conditioned comfort of a nearby Mcdonald's. I was sitting in a booth, texting pictures to my mom, when a lady sitting across from me snorted and said, “you kids and your phones. You never put them down.”
I had to laugh because I’m old as dirt and being called a kid was something I hadn’t heard in a couple decades. I politely told her that I’d been to the local cemetery and was sending the pictures to my mother, who at that moment was 500 miles away. To do so was a bit of a technological miracle, wouldn’t you agree mon cheri? Properly chastised, she snorted at me again, got up and went to the restroom. I shrugged at her husband, and he replied, “Ah hell, forget about her, she’s full of sh*t most of the time anyway.” As I got up to leave, my internet cop passed me in the aisle. I clicked my tongue at her and winked. She snorted at me one last time and gave me a wave of her hand.
Cemeteries are places I typically don’t hang out. But if you want to pay tribute to deceased ballplayers, there are probably some in your area. Baseball-Reference, which is an amazing site for baseball nerds like me, shows the final resting places of all ballplayers. Alaska has the fewest, with just one, Charlie Fisher, a third baseman who got into 11 games in 1884, most of those with the Kansas City Cowboys. He’s buried in Eagle, a tiny burg on the eastern border of the state, hard by the banks of the Yukon River. Pennsylvania is surprisingly the final resting place of 897 former ballplayers, the most of any state. Hall of Famers buried in the Keystone State include Richie Ashburn, Charles Bender, Nellie Fox, Josh Gibson, Connie Mack, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Pud Galvin, among others. According to a recent story by Joe Posnanski, Galvin used to inject himself with monkey testosterone in an attempt to improve his performance. Don’t ask me how or why. Understand, Galvin played between 1875 and 1892 and how someone who played in that era got ahold of monkey testosterone is another story worth exploring. So, yes, it appears that ballplayers have been trying to cheat their way to better performance for over a century. It must have worked because Galvin is still fifth all-time in wins with 365.
Missouri boasts the resting places for 414 former players, with many buried in the St. Louis metro area. There are a number of Hall of Famers buried in Missouri: Cool Papa Bell, Lou Brock, Joe Medwick, Stan Musial, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Bullet Rogan, and George Sisler just to name a few.
A quick glance shows at least 51 big leaguers buried in and around the Kansas City metro area including several prominent Negro League Stars (Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Frank Duncan, Hilton Smith) and several past members of the Kansas City Athletics and Royals, including Billy Bryan, Lew Krausse, Don O’Riley, Darrell Porter, Dan Quisenberry, and Paul Splittorff.
The state of Kansas is the resting spot for 111 ballplayers, but only one Hall of Famer, Fred Clarke, who is interred in my grandparents’ hometown of Winfield. The Kansas City, Kansas side has a handful of notables including Hank Bauer. Leavenworth has a surprising number of big-league graves, fifteen total, including Ed Charles, a onetime fan favorite of the Athletics. Most are buried in the military cemetery at Ft. Leavenworth.
Iowa is the final home to 88 ballplayers, including Hal Trosky Sr. and Hal Trosky Jr., both in the town of Norway. Trosky Sr. is an interesting story, a left-handed first baseman who could flat out hit. He played between 1933 and 1946, missing most of three seasons to injury and severe migraine headaches. Playing for Cleveland in 1936, he slashed .343/.382/.644 with 42 home runs and a league-leading 162 RBI and 405 total bases which only netted him a 10th place finish in the MVP voting! Think about that for a moment. He hit .343, 42 home runs and 162 RBI and still ONLY finished 10th in the MVP race?? He eclipsed 100 RBI in six seasons and hit .302 for his career.
Trosky was a superb power hitter and run producer who was often overshadowed by contemporaries such as Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg. Trosky Sr. had been signed by Cleveland’s legendary scout Cy “Slappy” Slapnicka, another Iowan of Bohemian heritage. Other Slapnicka signees included Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Mel Harder, Roger Maris, and Herb Score. Feller, born and raised in Iowa, is interred in Cleveland, his big-league home. Ohio is the final resting spot for 637 players including several with Kansas City ties, such as Al Aber, Newt Allen, Frank Blattner, Dizzy Dismukes, Ned Garver, and Joe Nuxhall.
There are 54 former players resting in Colorado, most of them in the Denver metro area. No Hall of Famers in Colorado, but Pueblo does boast an impressive eight graves, a solid 15% of all of Colorado’s departed.
An even 50 players rest in Nebraska’s fine soil, including Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander (St. Paul), onetime Kansas City Athletic star Bob Cerv (Weston), and former Royal utility man, Rich Severson (Omaha).
Of baseball immortals, Branch Rickey is buried in Rushtown, Ohio. Cy Young rests in Peoli, Ohio. Babe Ruth is in Hawthorne, New York. Henry Aaron? Atlanta, of course. Jackie Robinson is buried in Brooklyn. Lou Gehrig is in the aptly named Valhalla, New York. Dick Howser, beloved manager of the Royals now rests in his beloved Tallahassee. Whitey Wilshere never made it to the Hall of Fame while playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, but he is buried in Cooperstown. Like salmon, people tend to swim back upstream as we age and die. So, if we’re in a year where they might not be any baseball, consider visiting your local cemetery to pay tribute to yesterday’s stars.