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Minor-league star from Cleveland to get headstone


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More than 100 years after his death, minor-league star from Cleveland to get headstone

By John Campanelli, The Plain Dealer

April 10, 2010, 5:10AM



CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Minor-leaguer Charles Pinkney never got a chance to tip his cap and say goodbye to the fans who cheered him. Nor did he get a chance to dazzle -- as he seemed destined to do -- the big-league crowds in his future.


In the century since, Pinkney has been all but forgotten, resting without a headstone at Lake View Cemetery, a short walk from the much-visited and often-decorated grave of Ray Chapman, the Indians shortstop who was killed by a beanball in 1920.


Saturday morning, more than 100 years after Pinkney's death, his descendants will gather at Section 25, Lot 138 and unveil a long-overdue headstone, allowing fans forever a chance to tip their caps to the talented young ballplayer.


Nicknamed "Cupid," Pinkney was on the verge of breaking into the big leagues in 1909. He dazzled in the field, was near the top of the league in hitting and played with a scrappy style that thrilled fans throughout the Central League.


There's a chance the major-league team in Cleveland, then called the Naps, had an arrangement to acquire Pinkney at season's end, baseball historian Craig Lammers told The Plain Dealer last year for an article marking the 100-year anniversary of Pinkney's death.


Late in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 13, 1909, with dusk making it difficult for players to see, Pinkney failed to get out of the way of a pitch from Grand Rapids pitcher Casey Hageman -- a pitch the Dayton Journal described as "a shift shoot, which approached the home plate like a shot from a rifle."


The ball smashed into the left side of Pinkney's head -- batters didn't wear helmets back then -- and the kid from Collinwood went down, unconscious. His father, a Civil War veteran, was one of the first at his side. (He was attending the final series of the season so he could accompany his son back to Cleveland, where Mrs. Pinkney was planning a welcome-home party for her youngest child.)


Pinkney was rushed to the hospital, where he lived, drifting in and out of consciousness, for another 20 hours.


His death was front-page news in Central League cities from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Piqua, Ohio. That, said Lammers, is a testament to the popularity of "Cupid," who played with enthusiasm and class in an era often marred by a slide-spikes-first attitude.


In the days that followed, there was talk of raising money for a monument to Pinkney, but that never happened.


After reading an article about Pinkney in The Plain Dealer last September, an anonymous donor stepped forward, offering "Cupid" a chance, finally, to be safe at home.



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