Graves of stars of the fall classic buried in New York City or nearby, from Babe Ruth to Jackie Robinson.
The World Series is going on, and while neither New York team is currently in the competition, the city has a strong connection to the annual fall classic. Countless players who were born in New York City (such as Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, or Phil Rizzuto were born in New York. Of course far too many to mention have lived and played in New York. And many are buried in New York.
Visiting New York City cemeteries is a wonderful way to connect with the city’s past, and cemeteries like Woodlawn and Green-Wood provide some of the most stunning natural scenery you will see in the five boroughs. In this post I will list many World Series players who are buried in New York City and in cemeteries in the suburbs all accessible easily from the city. If you visit a former baseball player’s grave, consider bringing some baseball memorabilia to decorate the grave with–baseballs are common. In this article I’m including a handful of players who took part in the modern World Series’ predecessor. From 1882-1891, the National League Champion would play the champion of the now defunct American Association (there was no American League at that time). It was called the ‘World’s Championship’. Note that in this article I do speak about several teams that have changed their nickname over the years. For simplicity I will use the franchise’s current nickname only throughout the article.
All photographs of graves are mine; other images are from Wikicommons.
Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn
Jackie Robinason 1919-1972
Not only one baseball’s greatest players, he was almost certainly the sport’s most socially significant player. Robinson played in six World Series with the Dodgers, helping them win their first ever in 1955. He retired one year later and remained in New York as the Dodgers left for California. He was an area businessman and civil rights activist. When he died in 1972, his funeral was held at Riverside Church; tens of thousands of people lined up to see his body delivered to Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, the borough where he starred.
Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx
Frankie Frish 1898-1973
Known as the ‘Fordham Flash’ for his time at Fordham University, Frankie Frish was a player for the Giants from 1920-26 and the St. Louis Cardinals from 1927-37, and was a player manager for the Cardinals from 1933-37. He played in eight World Series and won four times. His most colorful appearance was as the player-manager of the ‘Gas House Gang’ 1934 Cardinals who edged his former team the Giants in the National League and then defeated the Detroit Tigers in seven games. The team also starred pitcher Dizzy Dean, his brother Daffy, outfielder Pepper Martin, slugger Ducky Medwick, and a shortstop named Leo Durocher. Frisch is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, not far from his Alma Mater.
Richard ‘Dick’ Rudolph 1887-1949
Rudolph had a 17 year career as a pitcher with the Giants and the Boston Braves. The pinnacle of his career was 1914 with the Braves, when the team when from last place in the National League in July to first place and then swept the Philadelphia As in four games. Rudolph, one of the last spitballers, won games 1 and 4 for Boston in that series. He would go on to manage a minor league team and coach at Fordham before dying at his residence on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx in 1949.
Joe Foy 1943-1989
Joe Foy grew up playing stickball 12 blocks from Yankee Stadium, and made a difficult climb up the rungs of organized baseball to the big leagues, starting at third base for the Boston Red Sox in 1966-68, and later for the Royals, the Mets, and the Senators. With the Red Sox he played six games in the World Series; his personal performance was unsuccessful, batting 133. After he retired he remained in his native city and council troubled children, and sadly died an early death at age 46.
Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn
Gil Hodges 1924-1972
In a city of so many great baseball characters, Gil Hodges was one of the most beloved. He has a bridge named after him, a public school, and a baseball field. A long-time Dodger, the first baseman appeared in one game in their 1947 loss to the Yankees before he became a regular starter in 1948. He would go on to appear in five more series. He would later play for the lovable 1962 Mets, and then went on to manage the “Miracle Mets” in their memorable 1969 win over Baltimore in 1969. He kept managing them for two more seasons, but died just after playing a round of golf in Florida before the 1972 season began. After a wake in Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Midwood, he was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Flatbush.
Calvary Cemetery, Queens
Mickey Welch 1859-1941
“Smiling” Mickey Welsh was born in Brooklyn to Irish immigrants. He was born Michael Walsh but adopted the spelling ‘Welch”–possibly due to a sportswriter’s error. He grew up in Williamsburg and played for the New York Giants from 1883-1892. Along with fellow pitcher Tim Keefe and shortstop John Montgomery Ward, the Giants dominated baseball in the late 1880s, winning two ‘World’s Championships’. Welch once struck out 9 batters in a row in 1884, still a record. In 1932 he was given lifetime Elks membership, presented at the ‘Mother Lodge #1”–then on 43rd Street. He is interred in Calvary Cemetery not far from fellow hall of famer Wee Willie Keeler, one of the game’s great early stars that never made it to the post-season.
Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island
James ‘Jim’ Mutrie 1851-1938
It’s hard to believe now but until the 1930s, the dominant Major League team in New York, and the nation for much of that period, was not the Yankees, only founded in 1901. The Dodgers have existed since 1883 but were mostly basement dwellers until the 1940s. The dominant team for much of early Major League baseball were the New York Giants. The co-founder of the club Jim Mutrie later became the manager; he assembled a team of stars and led the Giants to championships in 1888-89. In 1889 they faced the Brooklyn Dodgers who then played in the American Association; the Giants won this historic series six games to three. Mutrie is credited with coining the Giants nickname (they were originally the Gothams). After a brilliant play in the outfield, Mutrie exclaimed, “My big fellows! My giants!”. He would later live on Staten Island and died of cancer in City Hospital on Roosevelt Island, then Welfare Island. He is buried at the historic Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island, one of the city’s oldest cemeteries.
Outside New York City
The following graves of notable baseball players can be easily accessed by public transit or car from New York City:
Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Valhalla NY, accessible on the Harlem Line of Metro North
A short trip up the Harlem line from Grand Central Terminal takes you to Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester County. Fans continue to make the pilgrimage to the grave of the greatest baseball player ever, Babe Ruth. But nearby are graves several other stars worth visiting.
George Herman “Babe” Ruth 1895-1948
Alfred ‘Billy’ Martin 1928-1989 New York Yankees 2nd baseman and later very volatile manager who led the Yankees back to a World Series Championships in 1977.
Ralph Branca 1926-2016 Branca had a fine career for the Dodgers and helped them win several pennants but is best known for his pitch to Bobby Thompson in 1951 which gave the NL title to the Giants.
Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla NY (adjacent to Gate of Heaven)
Lou Gehrig 1903-1941 The Upper East Side born Gehrig played at Columbia University before joining the New York Yankees, eventually dying of the disease that bears his name.
Andrew Coakley 1882-1963 Coakley had a 10-year Major League career as a pitcher with the As, Reds, Cubs, as well as one year with the Yankees in 1911. His lone World Series appearance was in 1905 for the As against the New York Giants, where he faced legend Christy Mathewson in Game 3 and lost 9-0, though remarkably he pitched a complete game.
Greenfield Cemetery, Hempstead, Long Island. Take LIRR to Rockport and NICE bus 41.
John Montgomery ‘Monte’ Ward 1860-1925 Pitcher and later shortstop for the New York Giants; later managed the Giants. He founded the first players union in 1885 and would become a lawyer after he retired from baseball and represent baseball players.
Walter ‘Arlie’ Latham 1860-1952. Played mostly 3rd base from 1880-1899, including 6 years with the St Louis Cardinals where they won the then American Association from 1885-88 and appeared in the then ‘World’s Championship’ against the National League champion. In the 1886 series against the Chicago Cubs Latham stole 12 bases and helped the Cardinals win the series 4 games to 2.
Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover New Jersey
Yogi Berra 1925-2015 Yogi Berra was arguably the most prolific World Series player in history. The Yankees catcher played in 22 series and won 13, and memorably caught Don Larson’s perfect game in 1956. We went on to serve as a coach for the Mets, helping them win the title in 1969. He then succeeded manager Gil Hodges and led the Mets to the Series again in 1973 after a hard-fought season, though they lost to the As.
5: Dick Brown wins the first America’s Cup in 1851.
In 1851 the ship America of the New York Yacht Club arrived in Britain on what appeared to be a hopeless task–to defeat the greatest ships in the world. The New York Yacht Club was only seven years old at that point, challenging the Royal Yacht Squadron which was over 30 years old. Great Britain was the undisputed master of the seas. Newspaper publisher Horace Greeley, who was travelling in Europe at the time, advised the Americans to not challenge the British, for they would surely get embarrassed.
The America’s captain was Richard ‘Dick’ Brown. He was one of the famed Sandy Hook Pilots, who since the 1600s have guided ships into New York Harbor. He was recommended by the America designer George Steers and America syndicate member George Schuyler as “careful, reliable, faithful, one of the best men in his position I ever saw”. Brown selected a younger pilot Nelson Comstock as his first mate–unfortunately little is known about him.
The race in 1851 was around the Isle of Wight, where the Royal Yacht Squadron was based. It would be familiar waters to the British sailors, but it is unlikely Brown had ever sailed around it earlier. 17 yachts entered against Brown’s America. Though less familiar with the course, he successfully navigated through the Nab rocks on the east of the Isle, a difficult maneuver the others didn’t attempt.
Dick Brown and the America
The America finished first with such an advantage that when Queen Victoria asked who finished second, she supposedly was told, “There is no second, Your Majesty.” Queen Victoria and Prince Albert personally boarded the America to congratulate Brown; when Albert boarded, Brown insisted the royal wipe his feat.
The result caused a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United Kingdom, many ship designers and sailors studied the race and the ship carefully to understand how to improve their vessels. In the US, newspapers hailed the victory as proof of superiority over their former colonial master–the New York Herald declared, “We have beaten them on land and at sea.” The New York Yacht Club was presented an ornate silver ewer, later named the “America’s Cup” after the first winning ship.
4. Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim across the English Channel.
The English Channel has long been a challenge that has attracted hardy athletes from around the world. It’s sort of a Mount Everest for swimmers. First crossed by Matthew Webb in 1875, it was next crossed in 1911 and by 1925 only five people has crossed successfully, and no women had even attempted to do so. The record time so far was 16 hours and 33 minutes by Argentinian swimmer Enrique Tirabocchi.
Gertrude Ederle, born in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, first attempted to swim the English Channel in 1925 at age 19. She was an Olympic champion swimmer and had made many high profile swims in the US, including swimming from Manhattan to Sandy Hook. She first attempted to swim the English Channel in 1925 but her trainer, former channel swimmer Jabez Wolffe, pulled her out part-way through. Ederle claimed she had been fine and could have continued. She switched trainers, and on August 6, 1926 she attempted again. This time she swam all the way across in 14 hours and 39 minutes, not only becoming the first woman to swim the channel, but beating the record by nearly two hours, the record for both men and women. She later said, “People said women couldn’t swim the Channel, but I proved they could.”
Ederle’s swim was a huge sensation. She received a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, lined with two million onlookers. She met President Calvin Coolidge, and starred in a movie about her feat entitled Swim Girl, Swim. She became a celebrity of the Roaring 20s.
Her record stood for only a few weeks; it was beaten on August 30th by German swimmer Ernst VierKotter, though her woman’s record was beaten only in 1950 by American Florence Chadwick. Up to WWII, only four people had swum the channel faster than Ederle. Also, Ederle’s swim had been in very rough sea conditions. Most faster swims by men or women took place in calmer weather. In retrospect, it was one of the greatest ever athletic feats of endurance and determination.
3. Babe Ruth smashes the home run record in 1920
Babe Ruth made many accomplishments which could be considered for this list, and to some extent this entry is a stand-in for all of them. He set a new single-season home run record three straight years from 1919-21. He set a record in 1927 of 60 whose significance still endures. He hit four home runs in a single world series game twice in his career (two other players have done this once: Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols).
Babe Ruth in 1920
However, his record of 54 home runs hit in the 1920 season, his first season as a New York Yankee, was what really changed the game. The previous season with the Red Sox, Ruth had set the record with 29, breaking a record of 27 set by Ned Williamson in 1884. However, Ruth’s mark the following year made Ruth the first player to hit 30 home runs in a season, the first to hit 40, and the first to hit 50. Throughout the 20s, he was only player to hit 50 home runs (he did so himself 4 times during that decade). His mark of 54 would not be surpassed by another player until Hack Wilson hit 56 for the Cubs in 1930; Jimmy Foxx was the next American Leaguer to do so in 1932
Ironically, Ruth’s landmark season started slowly. He injured himself in April and did little in the first month for his new club. Then on May 1st he hit a home run completely out of the Polo Grounds (then the Yankees home ground). He broke the record on July 19th, with over two months left in the season. By the end of the season his tally of 54 redefined the limits of a power hitter, and ended the so-called ‘dead ball era.’
The next season Ruth hit 59 home runs, and also led the Yankees to their first World Series. In 1927 he hit 60 which remained the record until 1961 when Roger Maris hit 61, aided by a season that was eight games longer than in Ruth’s era. Since then, three more players have hit more than 60–all of whom have either admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs or are suspected of it.
2. Bob Beamon’s record long jump in 1968
Beamon’s first jump in 1968
When Bob Beamon stepped onto the runway for his first long jump in the 1968 Olympics, he was already the favorite to win the event. The Queens native and former Jamaica High School (located in Queens NY) track star had already won over twenty events that year. It was seen as possible that he would set a new record, especially at Mexico City’s high altitude. However, what he accomplished was beyond what anyone could imagine.
His first jump saw him soar past the limit of the measuring equipment. Officials took over 15 minutes to determine the length of Beamon’s jump. As he waited for officials to bring out a manual tape, Beamon himself supposed he might have broken the record by a couple of inches. However, his teammate Ralph Boston came up to him and said, ‘the jump was well over.”
Finally, the length of 8 meters 90 centimeters was announced; however Beamon did not understand metric measurements. He was finally told his record was 29 feet and 2 1/2 inches, nearly two feet beyond the previous record. Beamon experienced such an emotional reaction to the news that his legs gave way and he suffered a catalepsy seizure. He competitors came to him and helped him to his feet. British 1964 gold medalist Lynn Davies said to Beamon, “You have destroyed this event!”
Beamon’s record would last for 23 years, though many observers felt it might never be broken. Four-time long jump Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis came close to the record numerous times but never broke it. However, at the 1991 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo, American Mike Powell jumped 8 meters and 95 cm, two inches past Beamon’s record. Beamon’s 1968 jump still remains the second longest jump in history, however. Though no longer the record, Beamon’s jump is frequently cited by sports experts around the world as one the greatest athletic feats ever.
1. Jackie Robinson destroys baseball’s color barrier
I cannot possibly do justice to Jackie Robinson’s achievement in 1947, the year he broke Major League baseball’s color barrier; nor will I attempt to. The impact of his achievement would be felt in American society at large, not just in baseball. It was one of the early milestones of the Civil Rights Movement.
Statue of Jackie Robinson and teammate Pee Wee Reese on Coney Island, portrayed together in 1947
The Brooklyn Dodgers signed Robinson with the intention of making him the first of many African-American signings. It was well known to any unbiased observer that there were many players in the Negro Leagues capable of competing in the majors. But as the first to break the color barrier, he was under unprecedented pressure as an athlete. He was constantly subject to racial abuse from fans, opponents, and his own teammates. He endured physical abuse on the field. When travelling hotels often denied him accommodation. Any player could have buckled in this situation.
Robinson not only endured, he shined. He led the National League in stolen bases; he was in the top ten in several hitting categories, including 2nd in runs scored. He deservedly won the Major League Rookie of the Year award. In 1949 he won the National League MVP award.
Like Ruth before him, Robinson led the way during a profound change of the league and the game. In July of the same year, three more Negro League stars were signed by teams in the American League. More followed. When Robinson retired in 1956, almost 7% of Major League players were African-American. By 1959, it was 17%, and in 1975 it was 27%.
The following list is not meant to be a list in order or a list of 11 through 16.
Y.A. Tittle’s passing records in 1962-63 for the New York Giants
Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941
Carol Heiss’s 5 straight figure skating world championships from 1956-1960
Lou Gehrig’s 2130 consecutive games played
Joe Namath ‘guarantees’ a Super Bowl victory and wins in Super Bowl III
On this day on September 24th, 1785, John Cox Stevens was born at the Stevens family estate in Hoboken NJ at Castle Point, the site of today’s Stevens Institute of Technology. Stevens was a livelong sportsman. He was a founding member of the New York Yacht Club and later nicknamed “the Commodore”. He led the ‘America’ syndicate which built the yacht that won the first ever America’s Cup for the NYYC in 1851. He also served as president of the Jockey Club and was responsible for the Great North-South Match of 1823, won by the Long Island-born thoroughbred American Eclipse.
Stevens also played an important role in the growth of early baseball. In the 1840s, a number of New York City’s early baseball clubs began to search outside of Manhattan for places suitable to practice. The city was increasingly difficult for playing baseball. So, several clubs including the pioneering New York Knickerbockers began to regularly cross the Hudson River by ferry to Hoboken to play at the Elysian Fields. Stevens ran the ferries and profited immensely. The Stevens family also owned the Elysian Fields and profited from the teams playing there.
On October 18th 1862 in a rowhouse on 307 Henry Street in today’s Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, a 21-year-old baseball and cricket phenom named Jim Creighton died from injuries sustained while playing in a baseball match. He was the sport’s first on-field fatality and widely considered to be baseball’s first superstar. He was the most feared pitcher of his day.
James ‘Jim’ Creighton was born in Manhattan in 1841 and moved to Brooklyn with his father. At age 17 he started playing for the Brooklyn Niagaras. While pitching against the Brooklyn Stars in 1859, he was noticed for his ‘low, swift delivery’ as a pitcher. Pitchers were required to throw underhand in that era. Though Creighton’s pitches were considered within the rules, they were perhaps aided by some hidden, but illegal, wrist movement. Creighton’s opponents were impressed, and soon he was playing for the Stars, A year later he was playing for the Brooklyn Excelsiors, probably the second strongest team in Brooklyn, and America, behind the mighty Brooklyn Atlantics.
The entrance Creighton’s house at 307 Henry, now an apartment building called the ‘Creighton’.
The Excelsiors were desperate to surpass their crosstown rivals, so much so that in all likelihood the paid Creighton ’emoluments’ under the table, making him what some historians call baseball’s first professional. Organized baseball was still officially amateur. The Excelsiors nevertheless became a profitable attraction for the league. Anchored by their star, they went on a barnstorming tour in 1860 to Albany, Buffalo, Canada, Baltimore, and other stops.
Creighton was not a one-sport man. Like many baseball players of his time he also played professional cricket simultaneously and starred for the American Cricket Club and the fabled St. George Cricket Club.
The exact cause of Creighton’s death is the subject of debate to this day. Legend has it he ruptured his abdomen while hitting a home run against the Unions of Morrisania. The truth is probably a little less dramatic. Accounts vary but it appears he ruptured his abdomen playing cricket and then aggravated it while pitching against Morrisania. In any case he died four days after the baseball match at his home. His Excelsior teammates mourned at their clubhouse at 133 Clinton St a few blocks away.
The mystery surrounding the cause of Creighton’s death is in part because of the rivalry at the time of cricket and baseball as America’s most popular sport. Baseball was on the rise at the time but it was still far from certain whether cricket or baseball would rule as A
merican’s most popular team sport. Many baseball officials feared that if the injury were blamed on baseball, the sport’s popularity would suffer. These fears turned out to be unfounded; in fact, baseball used Creighton’s death as as a means to create a sense of history and nostalgia. Creighton was immediacy held as the game’s first superstar. His grave at Green-Wood Cemetery became an attraction, decorated with a baseball carved onto the headstone.
In later years, Creighton’s grave would become a model for plaques used at the Baseball Hall of Fame and at Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. Creighton’s house on Henry Street still stands and is now called “The Creighton.” The Excelsior clubhouse at 133 Clinton also in Brooklyn Heights still stands and now has a plaque honoring the team and Creighton (Though several details on the plaque are wrong; Creighton is inaccurately credited with inventing the curveball.). The death of James Creighton marked the beginning of baseball celebrating its past, something which the sport loves to do.