For years, visitors have left mitts, balls, bats and other assorted paraphernalia of America's pastime at Ray Chapman's grave at Lake View Cemetery. The remembrances are propped against his headstone, left in honor of the only major leaguer in history to die from being beaned by a pitch.
A short stroll toward the Euclid Gate at Lake View, right near the office, lies a man who suffered the same fate but had gotten none of the recognition, until last week.
Charles "Cupid" Pinkney also died after a beaning, on September 14, 1909, but Pinkney played for the minor-league Dayton Veterans, and few know anything about him.
Last September, Plain Dealer reporter John Campanelli memorialized Pinkney on the 100th anniversary of his death.
Campanelli's story concluded: "Cupid's grave is about a half-mile west, section 25, lot 138. It's difficult to find. He has no headstone." An anonymous donor later remedied that, so last Saturday, 101 years after the fact, Pinkney was finally recognized with a headstone in a ceremony attended by about 40 people, including Pinkney's relatives, a few fans and some baseball historians.
Campanelli read "A Tribute to Charles Pinkney," a poem by W.L. Connors that appeared in the Dayton Daily News three days after Pinkney's death. The final stanza reads: "The Umpire of the Game of Life/Has called a fav'rite player out/ And stilled with grief ev'ry Voice/ That yesterday was wont to shout."
Besides spurring this final tribute, the PD article also put to rest some of the myths that had floated around Pinkney's family for years.
As the stories went among the distant relatives, Pinkney was all set to sign a contract with the Cleveland Naps, and his mother was waiting that night to throw him a party. As it turns out, the Naps may have had some interest, but no deal was imminent, and although there was a party at Pinkney's mother's house that night, the party was in Cleveland, not Dayton, and it wasn't a celebration for Charles.
Bruce Pinkney, a great grandnephew, and others reminisced about the tall tales Saturday after the unveiling of the headstone. Propped against it was a team picture of the Tellinger baseball club, an independent squad for which Charles and his brother George had both played. The picture spent time in the basements and on the walls of various relatives through the years, and some would look at it and say, "Hey, that's grandpa George up there. Who's that other guy with the same name?" And someone would tell the story of the aspiring major leaguer who died playing the game.
Reverend Ralph Fiota closed the ceremony with a benediction that invoked Field of Dreams. "Look closely," he said. "There is Ray Chapman, shortstop for the 1920 Cleveland Indians. Next to him is Charles Pinkney for the 1909 Dayton Veterans. A perfect double-play combination. Both now play in the field of honor. Not in a cornfield in Iowa, but here at Lake View Cemetery."
Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.
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