As part of my exploring and photographing baseball graves, I ended up as the chair of the 19th Century Grave Marker Project, one of the many great committees and offshoots of SABR. Our group’s mission is to preserve history by identifying 19th-Century ballplayers, pioneers and other noteworthy baseball figures who are in unmarked graves or have deteriorated grave markers. We then fund the installation of a new grave marker and keep that particular person from fading away into history. You can read more about what the group has done on the SABR website.
SinceI joined the Grave Market Project, we have have installed a grave marker for Ed Williamson (you can read about him here and here) and are in the process of completing a project for Bobby Mathews later this year. In the meantime, I was approached by Tom Larwin of the Ted Williams San Diego SABR Chapter. Their chapter has been doing similar work in their own neck of the woods. Last year, they installed a grave marker for John Quest. This year, they started on a similar project for Hick Carpenter. Tom got in touch with me to see if our two groups could collaborate on it — it was a natural fit.
The quick bio of Hick Carpenter is that he is one of baseball’s greatest left-handed third basemen. Yes, that’s a pretty small group, but it’s a reminder that baseball didn’t used to be quite so regimented with its left-handed ballplayers. Today, if you’re a southpaw, you’ll end up as a pitcher, first baseman or outfielder. That wasn’t always the case — early baseball even had its share of lefty catchers! Carpenter’s greatest season was in 1882, when he was one of the top hitters of the American Association. Playing for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, Carpender batted .342 and led the league with 80 games played, 120 hits and 67 RBIs. His career lasted for 12 years, finishing with a single game for the St. Louis Browns in 1892. He was a career .259 hitter and had at least 2 seasons where he would have been an All-Star, had the concept of an All-Star Game existed. He could have walked away with the 1882 MVP Award too, for that matter.
Unlike many of his 19th Century baseball bretheren, Carpenter lived to a ripe old age. He died in San Diego on April 18, 1937, at the age of 81. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, but until last week, his grave was never marked. The San Diego Chapter held a dedication ceremony for his new marker on August 4. You can read more about the event on the SABR website, as well as a wonderfully in-depth report of Hick’s life by Tom Willman.
I want to thank Tom Larwin and the rest of the San Diego Chapter for being the driving force behind this project. It’s a wonderful thing that a group of baseball lovers would take the time to honor one of the game’s early stars. If there are any other regional SABR chapters that would like to collaborate with the Grave Marker Project on a grave marker in your city/region, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t promise that we can take on every single request that comes our way, but I think this is an ideal way to help spread the work. Also, if you know of any 19th-Century baseball figures that would fit in our project, please let me know!
You can find some pictures of the new grave and dedication ceremony below. Photos supplied by the Ted Williams San Diego SABR chapter.