Whirty: Gus Brooks: turning macabre into memory

From SABR member Ryan Whirty at Home Plate Don’t Move on June 4, 2017:

That brings us to my/our role as baseball historians, researchers and writers. Because every so often we come across an archival item about death on a baseball field, and we’re made aware of how easily our society can morph such a tragedy into humor on the big screen or smartphone. Say, Adam McKay or the Wayans Brothers or Judd Apatow writes a movie script about a dumb or nasty or old player getting his/her hilarious comeuppance, which then triggers the develop of the hilariously wacky hijinks that ensue.

But when I was at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., delving into the official archives of the Evangeline League, I came across a yellowing newspaper with a huge banner story about 23-year-old Crowley Millers outfielder Andy Strong in July 1951 being struck dead by a bolt of lightning while he was manning the outer garden during a game. When the lightning hit his head, Strong collapsed and died immediately.

Again, this is something that could be played off in films or cartoons as a nutty plot device, or it might be something found in the occasional macabre story in The Onion.

But in real life, such an occurrence is without a doubt horrifying to everyone involved. Strong was in his very first season of pro baseball and left behind a wife and 1-year-old child, while teammates, opponents and fans in the stands were stunned that such a tragedy could even occur on a laidback evening in bayou country.

As I learned when putting together this post about the recent efforts of the Negro League Baseball Grave Marker Project, a similar misfortune occurred to pre-Negro League outfielder Gus Brooks, one of the recent beneficiary of the NLBGMP’s work.

Read the full article here: https://homeplatedontmove.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/gus-brooks-turning-macabre-into-memory/

Originally published: June 5, 2017. Last Updated: June 5, 2017.