Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project
The Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project is an effort started by Peoria, Illinois anesthesiologist Jeremy Krock and with support of the Society for American Baseball Research to put a proper headstone on the graves of former Negro League baseball players.
History of the Project
Founded in 2004, the Project started when Dr. Krock contacted members of the Society for American Baseball Research after he discovered there was no headstone on the grave of Jimmie Crutchfield, a player who grew up in Krock's childhood home of Ardmore, Missouri.
After Crutchfield, the Project went on to place headstones on the graves of notables like John Donaldson, Candy Jim Taylor, Theodore "High Pockets" Trent, Steel Arm Johnny Taylor, Sam Bankhead, Bobby Robinson, Bill Gatewood, James Edward "Sap" Ivory, Robery "Fuzzy" Garrett, Frank Grant and Dink Mothell.
Some of the Cemeteries the group has installed stones include Burr Oak Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois, Springdale Cemetery in Peoria, Illinois, East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton, New Jersey, and Greenwood Cemetery and Allegheny Cemetery which are both in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
While the grave marker project depends mostly on small contributions, the group has also received sizeable donations from people like Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, former player and manager Don Zimmer, and former 8th Commissioner of Baseball Fay Vincent. In fact, Vincent noted he had met Jimmie Crutchfield and liked him. Vincent has gone on to say the Baseball color line which led to good black athletes being excluded from Major League Baseball was ..."one of the great insults to a community."
The project has managed to seed other gravesite work in the community and in the burial industry. For instance, the wife of Jimmie Crutchfield lay beside him and was also unmarked until the Cemetery donated a marker for Julia Crutchfield. Olivia Taylor, the wife of C.I. Taylor is also on the list for a headstone. Often a headstone, such as the marker for Bill Gatewood was donated by the headstone engraver, which automatically advances the donated money to the next Negro League baseball player headstone.
Baseball historian Larry Lester works with Dr. Krock and with other researchers of the Society for American Baseball Research, they have compiled a list of about 3,600 players, their birth dates and death dates, where they are buried, and if they have headstones. Much of the research comes from the Negro Leagues Research Committee, an arm of the Society for American Baseball Research.
List of Players Given Headstones by the Project
- Jimmie Crutchfield (2004)
- John Donaldson (2004)
- Candy Jim Taylor (2004)
- Robert Garrett (Umpire) (2005)
- Theodore "High Pockets" Trent (2005)
- Daniel G. Burley (Sportswriter) (2005)
- Guy C. Ousley (2005)
- William James "Jack" Marshall (2005)
- Roosevelt "Rosie" Davis (2005)
- Paul Hardy (2005)
- Othello Strong (2005)
- Steel Arm Johnny Taylor (2007)
- Franklin L. Mann (2008)
- Lester Lockett (2008)
- Gable Patterson (2009)
- Robert Gaston (2009)
- Sam Bankhead (2009)
- Bobby Robinson (2010)
- James "Sap" Ivory (2010) 
- Bill Gatewood (2010)
- Frank Grant (2011)
- Steel Arm Dickey (2011)
- Sol White (2012)
- Home Run Johnson (2014)
- William Binga (2014)
- George Shively (2015)
Future Grave Markers Currently Receiving Funding
Honors and Awards
Krock has received numerous awards from Society for American Baseball Research, including a 2011 Fay Vincent Most Valuable Partner Award at the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference. Krock also gives an annual report at this conference.
Burr Oak Cemetery Controversy
On July 9, 2009 Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart alleged that four workers at Burr Oak Cemetery dug up more than 200 graves, dumped the bodies into unmarked mass graves, and resold the plots in a scheme that went back at least five years. Burr Oak Cemetery has become well known as one of the few cemeteries that has historically focused on the needs of the African American community, it is the final resting place of many black celebrities, including Chicago blues musicians, athletes, and other notables.
Chicago's Cook County Sheriff's Office created a website to give anyone in the world the ability to search 43,555 photos in a database of marked, identified graves at the Burr Oak Cemetery. While it is unknown if any Negro League baseball players' graves were involved in the Burr Oak Cemetery scandal, researchers continue work to determine if this is true.
- "Negro Leagues project marks history" ESPN's Outside the Lines" ESPN Network, Last Update on February 20, 2011
- "Negro Leagues Grave Marker Project" Ongoing website updates by Larry Lester, Baseball Historian
- "For Negro League Players, a Measure of Recognition" New York Times, June 30, 2010
- "Negro League Star Frank Grant Finally Gets Tombstone In Clifton, NJ" CBS Radio, WCBS 880 AM, New York, NY Website Posting on June 15, 2011
- "Negro Leagues' heroes finally get their tombstones" NBC Nightly News, July 19, 2011
- "Awards To Honor Legacy Of Negro League Baseball Great" KDKA, CBS News, Pittsburgh, PA, August 14, 2011
- "Baseball's Ghost Hunter" Sports Illustrated, July 25, 2011, Page 64
- "Late Negro Leaguers' Legacies Finally Set in Stone" Sports Illustrated ".com" Taken From Associated Press Article, Posted July 15, 2010
- "A Legacy Written in Stone" The Columbia Daily Tribune, Columbia, MO, Wednesday, June 30, 2010, Page B1
- See "Players" page of the Official Website of the Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
- "Immortalizing a little-known legend" The Buffalo News, June 25, 2014. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
- Honoring Minnesota's long-gone Negro League players", by Rubén Rosario, at TwinCities.com, June 26, 2014. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
- "Community comes together to honor local Negro League star, family members" The Herald-Times, April 5, 2015
- "Celebration Of Negro Leagues Held Downtown" KDKA, CBS News, Pittsburgh, PA, August 14, 2011
- "4 charged with digging up graves, reselling plots". CNN. July 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-10.