From SABR member Ryan Whirty at Philly.com on October 28, 2014:
Even today, a copy of Alexander Albritton’s death certificate doesn’t include an official cause of death.
Instead, the space allotted for that information bears the remnants of a stamp, in all capital letters, which reads “PENDING INQUEST.”
That seal that was originally placed there on February 6, 1940, several days after the former Negro League player was beaten to death by an attendant at the notorious Philadelphia State Hospital (better known as Byberry), where – according to a story that ran in the Philadelphia Tribune that same week – Albritton had been committed a year earlier “following a nervous breakdown.”
His is a haunting story that mixes the American pastime with a history of racial and social stigma and a chilling history of a now long-gone institution that was for decades rife with mistreatment, abuse and other horrors for its mentally ill patients, people who had been shuttered away from society because of their health condition.
Within a year, hospital attendant Frank Weinand, the man responsible for Albritton’s death, was absolved by the legal system. Furthermore, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article on August 24, 1940, stating that despite being “the major target of critical blasts by successive grand juries, [Byberry] was one of six public institutions formally praised yesterday by the August Grand Jury.”
The suspicious lack of an official cause of death is not the only mystery stemming from his death certificate. It also states that Albritton was to be buried in Eden Memorial Cemetery, a historic African-American burial ground in Collingdale. But when asked about the details of Albritton’s burial and grave, Eden staffers found no record of anyone by that name being interred there between 1939 and 1941.
Originally published: October 29, 2014. Last Updated: October 29, 2014.