Obit of the Day: The Handshake That Shook Baseball
On April 8, 1946, as Jackie Robinson stepped to the plate for the Montreal Royals history was made. He became the first black man to play professional baseball with white teammates and opponents in over 60 years*. The color barrier was broken.
But that did not mean that the baseball world was ready to move on. During his career Mr. Robinson would suffer the jeers, taunts, and insults from fans and players alike. Their racist vitriol poured over him as he traveled from city to city.
But on that April afternoon in Jersey City, NJ, there was a glimpse of teamwork and kindness. In the third inning, Mr. Robinson stepped up to the plate with two men on and crushed a three-run home run. As he came around to score, George Shuba, the player on deck, walked to home plate, and shook Mr. Robinson’s hand. The image was captured by an Associated Press photographer and went national. Mr. Shuba’s decision to shake Mr. Robinson’s hand showed that at least some players weren’t just going to tolerate black teammates but celebrate them.^
Mr. Shuba would later join Mr. Robinson in Brooklyn, playing parts of seven seasons for the Dodgers. His highlight, like the rest of Brooklyn’s players and fandom, was the team’s lone World Series championship in 1955. Mr. Shuba retired from baseball after winning it all.
He returned to his home in Youngstown, where he played baseball with black children growing up, and worked for the US Postal Service. He kept only one piece of memorabilia from his baseball career - a framed copy of the April 8, 1946 photo.
George Shuba died on September 29, 2014 at the age of 89.
(Image of George Shuba shaking hands with Jackie Robinson as he crosses the plate after hitting a three-run home run in his first professional game on April 8, 1946. The image is copyright of the Associated Press and courtesy of the NY Times.)
* Moses Fleetwood Walker played one season with the Toledo Bluestockings of the American Association in 1884, and was later joined by his brother Weldy Walker. Five years later after complaints from white players led by future Hall of Famer Cap Anson, major and minor league officials voted to stop offering professional contracts to black players.
^ The next season a similar moment occurred when Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese, a noted Southerner, put his arm on Mr. Robinson’s shoulder (or his hand, there is no photograph of the moment) during some of the worst of the verbal attacks in Cincinnati. There is a statue commemorating the moment outside of the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league park.
Obit of the Day: The World’s Oldest Clown
In 2012 Guinness World Records honored Floyd “Creeky” Creekmore as the “World’s Oldest Performing Clown,” when he was 95 years old.
Mr. Creekmore began clowning after retiring from ranching and homebuilding in the 1980s. He worked mainly with the Shriners, performing for children in circuses and other events.
He retired later in 2012 after the death of his wife Betty, to whom he was married for 74 years.
Creeky the Clown, who was named “Clown of the Year” in 1993 by the International Shriner Clown Association, died on September 27, 2014 at the age of 97.
(Image of Floyd “Creeky” Creekmore puts on his makeup on March 29, 2012, before a visit with children at a circus in Billings. Copyright of the Associated Press and courtesy of Billings Gazette.)
The Man Who Lives Alone
My Intro to Comics final about ghosts and love.
Obit of the Day: The NHL’s Oldest Living Player
Al Suomi played five games for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1936-1937 season. The native of Eveleth, Minnesota was recruited by Chicago owner Frank McLaughlin along with other U.S.-born players to create an team composed entirely of Americans. The early NHL, only formed in 1926, was dominated by Canadians but the Hawks owner wanted to showcase homegrown talent.
After the group won only two of five games, the “All-American” team (as it was dubbed) was disbanded. Mr. Suomi’s brief NHL experience was over but he returned to the ice as a member of the Chicago Hornets a lower-level professional team.
Born in 1913, Mr. Suomi laced up his skates for the first time when he was five. His hometown of Eveleth had become an incubator for hockey players eventually becoming the home of two hockey hall-of-famers, ten NHL players, and, later, one of Minnesota’s high school hockey powerhouses. In 1930, Mr. Suomi, playing for Eveleth Junior College was part of a national championship team that won after overcoming a 5-0 deficit in the third period to win 7-5.
In 1935 Mr. Suomi and some of his Eveleth teammates were recruited to play for the Chicago Baby Ruths, a semi-professional team named for the candy bar. The team won a national amateur championship, but their $25 per week salary cost them a chance to skate for the U.S. in the 1936 Winter Olympics.
After his hockey career ended, Mr. Suomi settled in Illinois and opened Al’s Hardware in LaGrange Highlands, a Chicago suburb. He ran the store for 45 years, finally retiring at the age of 94 in 2007.
Mr. Suomi was not only the oldest living NHL player, turning 100 in 2013, he is believed to be the only NHLer to ever reach the century mark. With the death of Mr. Suomi, hall of famer Elmer Lach becomes the oldest living former player at the age of 96.
Al Suomi, who had 13 great-grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren at the time of his death, passed away on September 23, 2014.
(Image of Al Suomi in 1937 as a member of the Chicago Hornets is courtesy of wikimedia.org)
Also of interest on Obit of the Day:
Herb Carnegie - Nearly the first black NHL player
Bob Suter - Member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team
Irv Tiahnybik - Founder of the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association
Connie Marrero - Oldest living major league baseball player
Reblogging one of my old scribbles to celebrate the recent return of Downton Abbey to our TV screens. Frankly, the unexpected arrival of a Chitauri invasion fleet at this point could only improve the series, although it might also cause some tricky etiquette issues at dinner…
I would so watch this…