Pro baseball: Forgotten Findlay star finally gets grave marker

HAMBURG, N.Y. — The western New York grave of an African-American baseball legend who played more than a century ago finally has a marker.

The Buffalo News reports that a tombstone and memorial for Grant “Home Run” Johnson were unveiled Tuesday at Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg, just south of Buffalo.

The Findlay, Ohio, native died a pauper at age 90 in 1963 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

His resting place finally got a marker through the efforts of the Society for American Baseball Research’s Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project.

Johnson was a star in semiprofessional leagues and the Negro Leagues in the 1890s and early 20th century. He eventually settled in western New York after playing and managing for teams in Buffalo.

Johnson was born in Findlay in 1874, and honed his baseball skills on the sandlots and ball diamonds of the Northwest Ohio town. He reportedly earned his nickname, “Home Run,” during the 1894 season when the 19-year-old shortstop hit 60 home runs.

In 1895, Johnson and Bud Fowler, a black teammate on the Findlay team, headed north and became the central figures on a Michigan club sponsored by the Page Wire Fence Co. Johnson, a shortstop for the Page Fence Giants, batted .471 that season.

Though just 21 years old, he was named team captain and helped develop the club, which went 118-36 that season, into one of the top Negro League teams in the country.

Buffalo became home for Johnson. Though the level of competition was not the same, he continued to manage, and play an occasionally, until the age of 58.

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