CAPT. EDWARD LESLIE GRANT
307th INFANTRY - 77th DIVISION
SOLDIER SCHOLAR ATHLETE
KILLED IN ACTION
OCTOBER 5, 1918
NEW YORK GIANTS
ERECTED BY FRIENDS IN BASEBALL
JOURNALISM AND THE SERVICE
On Memorial Day, 1921, a memorial plaque for Eddie Grant was ceremoniously unveiled at the Polo Grounds. The plaque was attached to a five-foot high monument stone in deep centerfield. Grant, a native of Franklin, Massachusetts, played ten seasons in the big leagues, the last three coming with the Giants in 1913-1915. His forte was hard-charging the bunts and laying them down. He also helped McGraw out with dugout duties.
When the United States declared war in 1917, Grant's leadership skills led to a commission in the Army. Capt. Grant was assigned to the 307th Infantry Unit in France. On the morning of October 5, 1918, just moments after he was given command of a mission to relieve Major Charles Whittlesey’s so-called “Lost Battalion,” an exploding shell ended his life.
Every Memorial Day, a wreath-laying ceremony at the Polo Grounds remembered Grant’s service and sacrifice. From time to time, the plaque could be seen in a newspaper photo taken of a game. In Game One of a Memorial Day doubleheader in 1955, the Phillies Stan Lopata hit a shot that bounced off Grant’s monument. Willie Mays’ quick retrieval and throw back in held Lopata to a triple in a game the Giants won 6-5. On July 8, 1957, number 24 is seen robbing the Pirates’ Dick Rand with an over the shoulder catch as Mays is nearing Grant’s monument. In 1940, Harry Danning’s cycle included an inside the park home run. The ball he hit went behind the Grant monument.
The plaque remained at the Polo Grounds until the New York Giants' last game on the afternoon of September 30, 1957. At 4:35 pm, the final out was recorded. Fans poured onto the field and took anything that could be taken, including prying Grant’s Memorial Plaque from the monument.
As far as can be determined, the plaque has never been found. The closest anyone has come is a website called The Baseball Reliquary. They do provide an interesting side road for the hunt but it appears that some of the items at their website are not actually the real thing. Their otherworldly approach was highlighted recently by Mudville Magazine.
This summer Sports Illustrated listed the Grant plaque as one of their “25 Lost Treasures.” (Double issue of July 11/18, 2005). There is a link at si.com but the content is available only to SI Extra members. The writer, Matt Waxman, provided me with the text for the part about the Eddie Grant Memorial Plaque.
POLO GROUNDS WAR MEMORIAL
After the Giants' final out in 1957, 11,000 New Yorkers ran on to the field to pillage -- their beloved team was forsaking the Polo Grounds for San Francisco. In deep center, three teens pried loose a plaque that memorialized third baseman Eddie Grant, the only major leaguer killed in World War I. Police nabbed the kids, but the plaque was never turned in to the precinct. ESTIMATED VALUE: $ 20,000.
Stu Leeds, President of the New York Giants Historical Society (no website at this time) and perhaps the most ardent searcher for the plaque, is looking for Grant's and the other plaques that once graced the centerfield clubhouse wall. In 1999, Leeds found the one for Jack Lummus at a J. Peterman’s store in Manhattan. The plaque is now on display at Giants Stadium.
Searchers for the missing plaques point to that last game at the Polo Grounds. As Stew Thornley notes in his excellent book, New York's Polo Grounds, Land of the Giants, all the plaques were present when the New York Giants played their final game. Milton Bracker’s front page account (New York Times) made note that Grant's plaque was pried from the monument but “subsequently retrieved from three youths by the police.”
From there, it’s anyone’s guess. Thornley interviewed Ev Parker, a Giants fan for many years at the Polo Grounds and a Lieutenant with NYPD for 33 years. Parker, now retired, looked at the police blotter used on September 29th and found nothing about the plaque. He believes, “if the cops confiscated it, that tablet went into someone’s den.”
Not knowing much about the other plaques, I decided to take a look at their stories.
September 27, 1928, Christy Mathewson and Ross Youngs
Irwin Kurtz, an attorney in New York and a Giants fan, came up with the idea to honor Ross Youngs. Youngs played his entire career for the Giants from 1917 to 1926. In his four World Series from 1921 to 1924, the outfielder from Texas collected 26 hits. McGraw kept two photos in his office. One of Mathewson and one of Youngs. The baseball and Giants’ world were saddened in 1927 when Youngs died of Brights’ Disease at the age 30.
Kurtz’ proposed the fans to contribute $1 as opposed to large sums by rich fans. (John Kiernan, New York Times, September 3, 1928). William M. Hewitt, president of the Loyal Giants Rooters, picked up on the idea and favored a “general campaign for contributions.” The cost was $1500. Team owner Charles Stoneham liked the idea and provided some funding for the plaque. He also had one made up for Christy Mathewson whose served in the Chemical Warfare Service.
The Times’ article on September 27 updated the story. Some money did come from the fans and some from the Giants. The plaques were placed on the concrete wall beneath the clubhouse windows in deep center field. Youngs was placed underneath the set of windows to the right and Mathewson’s on the left.
July 10, 1934, John McGraw
The second All-Star game was played on this date. Best remembered is Carl Hubbell striking out five future Hall of Famers in a row at the Polo Grounds. Attendance (48,363) was standing room only and according to Roscoe Magowan’s report, about 15,000 were turned away.
At 1 p.m., about 30 minutes before the game began, members of both teams gathered in center field for the dedication of McGraw’s plaque. It was placed on the concrete wall between the two sets of windows and directly behind Grant’s. A moment of silence took place. When he passed away that February, the New York Times said he was baseball’s greatest figure.
December 2, 1945, Jack Lummus and Al Blozis
Al Blozis was a two sport star. At Georgetown University, he set the world indoor record for the shotput. With the New York Giants, he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1942 and All-Pro in 1943 at tackle. Arthur Daley wrote he “was on his way to become the greatest player the position ever had.”
Lt Blozis served with the 110th Infantry in France. In January 1945, his platoon was searching for the enemy. Two soldiers got lost in a snowstorm in the Vosges Mountains. Blozis searched for them and never returned. On April 8, the War Department notified his mother that his body had been found.
Blozis’ plaque is similar to Grant’s in that it says, Soldier, Scholar, Athlete. It was placed to the right of Youngs before the Giants-Eagles game.
Jack Lummus was an outstanding football and baseball player at Baylor University. After one season of playing end with the Giants, Eastern Division Champs in 1941, he joined the Marine Corps. On March 8, 1945, Lieutenant Lummus bravely led his platoon into battle against a heavily fortified enemy on Iwo Jima.
On May 30, 1946, Lummus was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. As his citation notes,
Determined to crush all resistance, he led his men indomitably, personally attacking foxholes and spider traps with his carbine and systematically reducing the fanatic opposition until, stepping on a land mine, he sustained fatal wounds.
Lummus’ plaque was also similar to Grant’s. It was placed to the left of Mathewson’s in the same ceremony as Blozis’. As noted previously, Stu Leeds found it in 1999.
July 11, 1948, James Walker
Walker was the Mayor of New York from 1925 to 1932. He was a regular at the Polo Grounds and is credited with helping to legalize Sunday baseball in New York. His plaque was dedicated on July 11, 1948 before a Giants-Dodgers game. It was placed below McGraw’s and just above the 483 foot sign. It says, "Friend and Fan, whose Sunday baseball law made it possible for millions of his fellow citizens to enjoy the game.”
Our Legacy in Bronze, NYGHS newsletter, July 2000, David Lippman (Photos by Leonard Greenblatt).
Ultimate Sacrifice, Kevin Coyne (Highly recommended reading)
New York’s Polo Grounds, Land of the Giants, Stew Thornley
New York Times
Eddie Grant Bio by Tom Simon
SABR-L postings, Stew Thornley, et al.
Player on Two Fields, Jay Gauthreaux
Out of Left Field, by Jeffrey and Douglas Lyons
Two Giants Were Heroes Far From Playing Field, New York Times, January 26, 1991.