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Baseball Fan Makes Sure Negro Leaguers Not Forgotten

By Rachelle Bowden in News on Sep 28, 2004 3:20PM

Jimmie Crutchfield, John Donaldson, and Jim "Candy" Taylor, 3 awesome players from baseball's historical Negro League, have been buried for years in unmarked graves out in Chicago Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip. When baseball fan Jeremy Krock found out he raised the Memorial Ceremony - Photo: so that each man could have a proper headstone. Yesterday, those stones were put into place during a memorial ceremony.

Crutchfield had a 15-year career with the Birmingham Black Barons, Indianapolis ABCs, and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, among other teams. His last game was in 1946 and he died 50 years later. Crutchfield's wife, Julia, also got a gravestone in the ceremony. Crutchfield, Donaldson, and Taylor once served as a lifeline to baseball in black communities. Back then all the kids in those communities wanted to be baseball players.

Crutchfield - Photo: WGNJeremy Krock, a white anesthesiologist from Peoria, first heard tales of the baseball players when he was young. Crutchfield was the pride of Ardmore, a coal-mining town where Krock's grandparents had lived. On a trip to Chicago to see the exhibit "Baseball as America" at the Field Museum, Krock bought a book on black baseball players and noticed that Crutchfield was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery. "I went to see where the most famous person from Ardmore was buried and found out it was an unmarked grave," Krock said. Especially stunning since Burr Oak was one of two Chicago-area cemetaries where African-Americans were buried at the time.

Being buried in unmarked graves was not an uncommon fate for many former Negro League players. They didn't make much money, and despite them being ballplayers, many men died destitute because they didn't get a pension. "There are eight more Negro Leaguers buried here in unmarked graves," Krock said, "and we're going to be able to take care of the rest of them sometime soon."