For more than a year now, I've been writing about the downtown baseball memorial dedicated to Jake Beckley.
Call me an advocate, call me a guy using the power of my industry to get the word out.
But what I'm doing isn't much compared to what happened back in 1971 when Beckley was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the late Jerry Stone had an idea.
You see, Jerry was the initiator. Jerry was the one who said, hey we need a monument to honor Jake Beckley.
"He did a lot of donations," friend Jay Draudt remembers. "He was the main guy. He got donations from the Cardinals, things like that."
"Huge baseball fan, anything with a ball in it he loved," Stone's daughter, Phyllis Murphy added. "Huge Cardinal fan. I remember he was really excited about it, and really had fun doing it — did a lot of fundraising for it and stuff like that."
Plans are in place through Hannibal Parks and Recreation to refurbish the memorial site. Once everything is set into place a beautified memorial will be a permanent fixture. In 2001, former Parks and Rec Director Bill Lankford said he wanted to plan a rededication ceremony for the memorial in 2001 — after George Pace, former state representative, brought the memorial's site and its poor condition to the city council. It never happened. That's why, as the site and new memorial get a face-lift, now is the time for a long overdue public acknowledgement of Hannibal's Hall of Famer.
Jerry didn't have any ground work, nothing to feed off of. Because of his efforts, a spot on Hannibal's Main Street is forever dedicated to a baseball legend. Jerry got a Jake Beckley Baseball Memorial Committee established, which included former Courier-Post Sports Editor Ed O'Neill, to help make the memorial a reality. Roy Brosi, owner of the Hannibal Monument Co., built and donated the stone.
"(Jerry Stone) maintained it while he was alive," Murphy said. "He'd go down there and pick up the cups people threw around there and everything."
"He took care of that down there for a long time because the city didn't do it," Draudt adds. "He would go down there and clean it all the time."
Draudt would also lend a hand when Jerry's health didn't allow him to clean.
It was Aug. 11, 1971, the same week Beckley was inducted into the Hall of Fame, that the Beckley Memorial was unveiled. Former Cardinals outfielder Terry Moore was an honored guest along with Jack Graney from Bowling Green who played for the Cleveland Indians.
There was a large crowd for the festivities and four decades later, there needs to be another.
It is time for Hannibal to come together and celebrate our game, celebrate our legend, celebrate our place in history. The upcoming refurbishment of the site will do allow us as a community to do so, and I know Jerry, Jake and all who made sure that our baseball legend had a place on Main Street, will be there in spirit.
Page 2 of 2 - When the day comes to rededicate the site of Jake Beckley's memorial, it will be a day not only for Jake, it will be a day for all of us.