Monday, August 4, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today - Luke Easter

Luscious “Luke” Easter, born on August 4, 1915 in Jonestown, Mississippi, was a left handed power hitting first baseman that became the 11th Negro League ballplayer in the Major Leagues.  At 6’4” and 240 lbs., Easter was slow with a limited range defensively and a weak arm.  However, few players could hit a baseball further than big Luke. 
Easter learned to play baseball on the sandlots of St. Louis after his family moved there when he was a small child.  After a short stint in the Army due to a previous leg injury, Easter played with the Cincinnati Crescents in 1946.  Looking for a power hitter to replace Josh Gibson who had died during that winter, the Homestead Grays signed Easter in the spring of 1947.  With Buck Leonard at first base, it did not help the Grays defensively as big Luke had to play in the outfield.  But he gave the Grays the additional powerful bat they needed and in 1948 the team won its last pennant and the Negro League World Series Championship.    
After Easter’s 1948 successful season with the Grays, the Cleveland Indians signed him.  He made his Major League debut on August 11, 1949.  From 1950 – 1952, Easter and former Negro League player Larry Doby gave the Indians a power hitting duo.  During those years, big Luke averaged 28 home runs and 102 RBIs.  He hit some of the longest home runs seen in Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium. 
Age, he was 37, and nagging injuries caused his performance to decline in 1953 and the Indians released him early the next season.
The victim of a failed robbery attempt, Luke Easter was shot and killed in Euclid, Ohio on March 29, 1975.   

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