Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: The story of Eddie Grant

Edward Leslie "Harvard Eddie" Grant, third baseman, played all or part of 10 seasons with four major league teams, 1905-1915.

Eddie Grant hit .249/.300/.295
as a deadball era infielder.
He was a lawyer after his playing career ended and was an early enlistee when the United States entered World War I  in 1917, quickly becoming a captain in the 77th Infantry Division. He was killed in combat on Oct. 5, 1918, and is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Lorraine, France.

He remains, all these decades and all these wars later, baseball's most prominent combat death. 

When the Hall of Fame was being created in the 1930s, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis wanted Grant to be one of the first inductees. That was a minority opinion; Grant was good enough a player to be a four-year regular in the major leagues, but he was not a star, much less what we think of as a Hall of Famer. His fame, such as it is, resulted from his death, not his baseball accomplishments.

A memorial in Grant's honor was erected in center field of the Polo Grounds, the home field of his final major league team, in the field of play some 470 feet from home plate. The plaque on that memorial vanished in the on-field scum after the Giants final home game there in 1957. It was reportedly found in the attic of a retired police officer a few years ago, although there is reason to doubt it is the same plaque that stood in center field for decades.

A replica of the original plaque is displayed in the Giants' current home park, a continent and a century away from where and when Grant played.

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