R.I.P. Baseball road trip to Chicago

I’m up in my hometown of Chicago for the week as part of a family vacation. The purpose of the trip is to hang out with my family and take the kids around the city. As a side trip, I get to visit the occasional cemetery and find a few more gravesites of interest.

A timeworn statue at St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Ill. St. Joseph is the final resting place of about a dozen former major-league players and managers.

Yesterday’s trip took me to Elmwood and St. Joseph Cemeteries in River Grove, Ill. I grew up and went to high school blocks away from these cemeteries, but I had no idea they had any baseball significance until I started up on this gravesite project. I’d visited Elmwood once to locate a couple of ballplayers, including Bill White, the first African-American pro ballplayer in baseball history (although nobody knew that until decades after his death). I had overlooked Harry Spence, who managed the Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1888. The Hoosiers played in the NL from 1887-1889 and were mostly awful. Spence is in an unmarked grave, but thanks to some help from baseball gravesite expert Dr. Fred Worth, I was able to find his approximate location.

The same was true for a couple of the unmarked graves in St. Joseph. Hal Bubser, who pinch-hit for the White Sox three times in 1926, was buried next to his sister, so that was an easy location to pin down. But for someone like Newt Halliday, who had all of one at-bat in the majors, I had to guesstimate as best as I could. It’s a pity, too. Halliday died from pneumonia in 1918 at the Great Lakes Naval Station while training for World War I. He gave his life in service to his country, and there is nothing to commemorate his sacrifice or even acknowledge his resting place. I shouldn’t feel bad about people who have been dead for more than 100 years, but I do sometimes.

Probably the most accomplished ballplayer at St. Joseph was “Long” Tom Hughes, who pitched from 1900-1913 and won 20 games for the Red Sox in 1903. The majority of the people played in just a handful of games. Also buried there is Vedie Himsl, who never made it to the big leagues as a player but was a part of the infamous “College of Coaches” experiment that the Cubs instituted in the 60s. Vedie was the “head coach” for 31 games in three different stints in 1961.

I’m way, way behind on my grave story profiles. Including the 13 graves I visited yesterday, I have a backlog of more than 150 people I have yet to write about. That doesn’t include a couple of hundred stories I wrote on my Instagram feed, which I’m trying to update now that I have some additional research resources. All of which is to say that I’ll be writing on this site for a long time to come. So, thanks for reading and come back frequently!

Updates may be a little slow this week, but I’ll try to add posts when I can. I’m working on stories about one of the greatest minor-leaguers of all time and a Nashville character who once put a drunk Don Zimmer on the wrong airplane.


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