Most summers, my friends Bill, Hank, and I pull together a baseball-centric road trip, ultimately arriving at the annual SABR convention. We call it the Boondoggle, and here's a series of reports from last year's 'doggle. Among the usual activities: Locating the final resting places of great players along our route, and paying tribute with a game of catch.
This year's convention is happening in Philadelphia later this week. Saturday afternoon, we all arrived in Pittsburgh, and before dark went looking for Josh Gibson's grave in old Allegheny Cemetery. We had the lot number, but we didn't have a map and it's a big, ill-marked cemetery. So we failed.
Sunday morning, this time armed with a map, we found Lot 50, set on a hillside, without any trouble and parked the car. But there were a great number of markers in Lot 50, and most of them simple stone markers set into the ground. So off we all went, searching blindly. I struck off on my own, as I usually do, and was touched by this marker:
.. but no luck finding Josh Gibson. Finally, as I turned around to suggest to my mates a systematic search, row by row, I saw a sign next to the road, pointing uphill. I followed the arrow, and there he was:
Because this seemed a bit less than dignified for one of the great power hitters in the game's powerful history, my friends and I spent a few minutes cleaning things up some ...
Better, huh? You would have done the same thing, and I don't mean to suggest anything unflattering about Gibson's fans in Pittsburgh, or the people who maintain the cemetery grounds. As I said, it's a big place, with many thousands of other departed souls who deserve the same respect as our great power hitter. It seems the grass in Lot 50 had recently been mowed, with a tractor. It rains a lot in Pittsburgh in the summer, so the mud and the grass gets thrown about and ... well, the markers in Lot 50 can take a beating, it seems. And I'm sure that if we hadn't been there Sunday, somebody else would have come along within a few days and done exactly what we did.
But I will take this opportunity to suggest, once more, that the burghers in Cooperstown consider disinterring Hall of Famers whose graves are generally neglected or unloved, and moving them to well-kept grounds near the Hall of Fame itself. I first considered this idea a few years ago, when I found Zack Wheat's grave in Kansas City and it seemed that nobody had visited in some years. As someone who enjoys these searches, I'm glad it was there. But if you think it's a shame that a Hall of Fame baseball player's grave is neglected and rarely visited by people who care about these things, there is a solution: Put the graves where the people are.