A state of rest

Twelve baseball Hall of Famers are interred in Maryland. One graveyard in Baltimore holds four, most of any site in the nation.


July 28, 2005|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

When it comes to late, great baseball players, Maryland puts up Hall of Fame numbers.

A dozen players enshrined in Cooperstown also are enshrined here, placing the "Land of Pleasant Living" behind only Delaware and Massachusetts in the per-capita realm of deceased greats.

The Hall of Fame has 260 members, of which 62 are alive, including Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg, who will be inducted this weekend. Seven Hall of Famers were born in Maryland - the one still living is Baltimore native Al Kaline - but only two of the 12 interred here were natives.

How did a state with just 5.5 million people become such an attractive final resting place?

For starters, Baltimore's New Cathedral Cemetery is deep in talent. Ned Hanlon, Wilbert Robinson, John McGraw and Joe Kelley - managers and players from Baltimore's baseball heydays of the 1890s - are buried within a quarter-mile of one another.

"New Cathedral is the king of Hall of Fame cemeteries, with four. No other cemetery has more than two," says Stew Thornley, a Minnesotan who has visited the graves of all deceased Hall of Famers and documented them on a Web site. "I think it's something to be proud of. My state doesn't have any."

If it were a state, New Cathedral would be tied for 12th place.

"They were all buried here because they had taken root here," said Mike Gibbons of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. "They really were a team to the end."

Of the 198 dead Hall of Famers, 10 have no interment site because the men were cremated and their ashes scattered. Roberto Clemente died in an airplane crash; his body was never recovered. As for Ted Williams, reportedly still in deep freeze in Arizona, "Is he dead or is he going to come back in 200 years?" asks Thornley in jest.

`Surprising ... powerhouse'

Two hundred sixty-seven major leaguers were born in Maryland (better than 34 other states) and 184 died here (ahead of 39 other states), according to the Web site of the Society for American Baseball Research.

"It is a surprising little baseball powerhouse," Thornley said.

A powerhouse, yes, but with half of its Cooperstown lineup consisting of pitchers, Maryland's graveyard shift wouldn't exactly be balanced. Still, what a starting rotation:

Walter Johnson, one of the greatest right-handers of all time; Maryland native Robert "Lefty" Grove, the winningest left-hander, with eight 20-game winning seasons; "Smokey" Joe Williams, a Negro leaguer who had a 53-5 year; Leon Day, a seven-time Negro leagues All-Star; and Richard "Rube" Marquard, a three-time 20-game winner who once won 19 consecutive games.

Defensively for the home team are Kelley, an outfielder who hit more than .300 for 11 consecutive seasons; John Franklin "Home Run" Baker, a Maryland native and stellar third baseman who hit .363 in 25 World Series games; and Sam Rice, an outfielder on the Washington Senators' three pennant-winning teams.

In Robinson, Hanlon and McGraw, the roster has three great players who became even greater managers.

A renaissance man rounds out the dozen. As a pitcher, Clark Griffith won 20 or more games in six consecutive seasons, managed in the majors for 20 years and owned the Washington Senators.

A popular attraction

At New Cathedral, a cemetery filled with governors, congressmen and war heroes, the baseball players get most of the attention. Visitors are frequent enough that Anne Gahan Lucido, the cemetery manager, has a map to pinpoint each grave.

"People come in all the time, especially in the spring," said Lucido, 76, who has spent nearly half her life taking care of the cemetery. "It's what they want to see, and we're glad to show them."

The four-stop tour, with obligatory wrong turns and short strolls from the road to the grave sites, takes no longer than 45 minutes.

"It's amazing, those old Orioles. They wound down their lives here," Gibbons said. "It demonstrates the power of human relationships. It demonstrates how close they were when they performed in Baltimore."

Hanlon was manager of the National League Orioles team that had Robinson, Kelley and McGraw as its nucleus. Robinson and McGraw owned "The Diamond," a South Howard Street duckpin bowling alley and a billiards hall.

In 1899, Hanlon moved on to Brooklyn and took Kelley with him. McGraw became manager and led the Orioles from the National League to the American League in 1901. Robinson succeeded him for a season, and when McGraw took the New York Giants' managerial job, he made Robinson his pitching coach from 1903 to 1913. Robinson went on to manage the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Both men died in 1934, Robinson at the age of 71 and McGraw at 60.

After baseball, Hanlon found a job in 1916 on the Baltimore parks board and became its chairman in 1931. Hanlon Park is named for his son, an Army lieutenant killed during World War I and buried in France.

Kelley lived quietly and died in 1943, six years after Hanlon.

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