There were a number of things I could of written about today.
Yesterday my colleague and I were talking about some of the worst baseball logos of all time, there’s the over actions of the commissioner’s office giving pitchers suspensions and then of course there’s the whole situation with Alex Rodriguez, but thanks to a post from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, there’s something better to write about.
Hall of Famer Jake Beckley would have been 144 years old Thursday. He played in the early days of baseball, just as it was growing from game to a profession. He was scrappy, tough and an all-around hard worker. His record putouts and games played at first base stand as a testament to his hall of fame career that was finally acknowledged with an induction in 1971 — 53 years after his death.
But the best part about Beckley isn’t his stellar baseball career, or his advocacy for the game of baseball. The best part about the longtime first baseman is that he hails from Hannibal.
Obviously to this day, Samuel Clemens (better known to the world as Mark Twain) is the most famous person to come out of this city, but when Beckley came on the scene in this growing popular game called baseball, Hannibal gained yet another famous son. He brought exhibition games to town with the professional teams he played on, even managed when his professional career ended with the Hannibal Cannibals, an independent team.
Beckley clearly never forgot where he came from and even though he has passed on, Hannibal shouldn’t forget him either.
So to the local cemetery I went.
You’re probably thinking, “This man is dead, he’s had several birthdays come and go. Why go now?”
Well, I just think with baseball being the great game that it is, those who’ve played the game, especially in its infancy, should still be acknowledged. Even in death.
Longtime records that have yet to be broken, interesting stories that have been preserved in baseball history books, even some of the game’s rules are all in place because of players like Beckley, who in all reality served as pioneers to our national pastime and made it what it is today.
The weeds have grown tall and the grass of old Riverside Cemetery has become thick thanks to the heavy summer rains.
Some of the tombstone inscriptions have faded away after being exposed to more than a century of elements, others are broken, have shifted in the mud or are hidden by the unkempt land. Yet despite a few overgrown weeds, Beckley’s final resting place is pretty well maintained.
I certainly never knew Mr. Beckley, but like I said, even in death someone’s heroism and efforts should still be acknowledged. So with a decorative wreath from a Hannibal flower shop, I stopped and wished the local baseball hero a happy birthday.
Page 2 of 2 - I wonder what an early ballplayer like Beckley would think of the game today? What would he have to say about these enormous ballparks that can hold more people than there are in his hometown of Hannibal? The color barrier was broken long after he died. I’m curious what he would have to say about such a diverse group of men playing baseball today. The business of the game has also changed drastically since the early 1900s when Beckley was in the heyday of his career. I wonder what “Old Eagle Eye,” the nickname he earned, would think about free agency and the big deals players make today?
We’ll never know.
Still, it’s best to pay our respects to folks, especially if they have significance in our pastime, our hometown and our history.
Happy Birthday, Jake.