Where 50 Chicago sports greats are buried – Chicago Tribune
Often, before games at Wrigley Field, Cubs fans will make a special stop at Graceland Cemetery to visit Ernie Banks‘ gravesite, which is about a mile away from his statue outside the ballpark. They pay their respects, maybe leave a flower or a “W” flag, and move on.
It’s nothing like it was after the Cubs won the World Series, when the crowds were so big that police officers parking inside the gates to control traffic spent the night.
“Once in a while, you’ll see a couple of flags out there,” Graceland Cemetery administrator Andres Vargas said. “As far as (the) crowds, I don’t think it can equate to the way it was last fall.”
But Banks isn’t alone. Former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson rests nearby and draws many visitors, as do other sports figures Bob Fitzsimmons, Robert C. Lewis and William Hulbert, founder of the National League.
Don’t forget about Harry Caray, Jesse Owens, Charles Comiskey, George “Papa Bear” Halas and many other sports greats buried in the Chicago area.
“Being a history buff,” Vargas said, “it’s neat that people take an interest in former greats or notables, take a glimpse in how times used to be, the way they lived.”
People just need to know where to find them.
On this Memorial Day weekend, the Tribune compiled a list of where 50 noteworthy names are located in or near the city.
Adrian Constantine ‘Cap’ Anson
Chicago White Stockings (Cubs) Hall of Fame first baseman who later became the team’s manager
Anson joined the Chicago White Stockings in 1876 as a third baseman but eventually moved to first base. He took on the player-manager role, staying with the team for 22 seasons. Before retiring in 1897, he broke multiple records and was the first player to surpass 3,000 hits. Anson, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939, was also a racist who refused to take the field if a black player was on the other team.
Cubs Hall of Fame first baseman
Known worldwide as “Mr. Cub,” Banks became the Cubs’ first African-American player on Sept. 17, 1953. He was an 11-time All-Star and two-time National League Most Valuable Player (1958-59). His boundless enthusiasm and optimism personified what it meant to be a Cubs fan.
Hall of Fame player, manager and Cubs broadcaster
A basketball and baseball star at Illinois, he led the Illini to 1937 Big Ten titles in both. He then spent most of his pro playing career with the Indians and managed four MLB clubs. For 30 years he was the Cubs announcer, leaving the booth in 1960 to manage the team. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.
John “Jack” Brickhouse
The Peoria native broadcast White Sox games from 1940-1967 and Bears games for 24 years. But he was best known as the voice of the Cubs, calling games from 1941-81. His signature “Hey, hey!” is commemorated on the foul poles of Wrigley Field.
Chicago’s baseball announcer for 27 years
Baseball play-by-play man for 53 years, including 11 with the White Sox and 16 with the Cubs, who took the tired baseball custom of the seventh-inning stretch and transformed it into a memorable, albeit off-key Chicago ritual.
Rose from baseball player to White Sox owner
After an 18-year playing career, he purchased an Iowa baseball team and brought it to Chicago in 1900, calling it the White Stockings. Soon thereafter he was one of the founders of the American League. Under his ownership, the White Sox won two World Series titles but were also embroiled in the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
John “Jimmie” Crutchfield
Outfielder for several teams in the Negro Leagues who later became a postman
Star of baseball’s Negro leagues, he began his career with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1930 and hit a career-high .330 the next season while playing for Indianapolis. He was then acquired by the Pittsburgh Crawfords, joining a roster that included Satchel Paige and Ted “Double-Duty” Radcliffe. Crutchfield later played for the Cleveland Buckeyes and the Chicago American Giants.
Nicholas “Nick” Etten
St. Rita grad and three-sport athlete became Yankees first baseman on 1943 World Series team
The former Yankees first baseman originally starred in baseball, basketball and football at St. Rita High School. He was the center on St. Rita’s basketball team, right end for its football squad and first baseman in baseball. He graduated in 1930 and is in the Chicago Sports and Catholic League Hall of Fame.
Andrew Rube Foster
Founder of the Negro National League
Known as “the father of black baseball,” he helped create the Negro National league in 1920. He was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1981.
Charles Leo “Gabby” Hartnett
Cubs Hall of Fame catcher-manager
A Cub for 19 seasons, he was considered the team’s all-time greatest catcher. The six-time All-Star won the NL MVP in 1935 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Founder of baseball’s National League and president of the Chicago White Stockings (Cubs)
Not only was Hulbert the Chicago White Stockings’ owner, he was also the founder and president of the team’s home — the National League. In 1995 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
First commissioner of professional baseball
Baseball needed a leader in 1920, and Landis was that man. The former federal judge was the league’s first commissioner, and during his 24 years, he cleaned out any crooks from the game, organized the first All-Star Game and scheduled the first night games. He also presided over baseball’s segregationist policy. Landis was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1944.
Robert C. Lewis
Cubs traveling secretary for nine managers
Lewis served as the Cubs’ traveling secretary for 32 years and was with the organization for 35 years. He retired in 1959 becoming one of baseball’s most colorful personalities.
Henry “Hank” O’Day
National League umpire, player and former Cubs manager
Managed the Cubs in 1914, the first native Chicagoan to do so. Went on to a Hall of Fame career as an umpire, working 10 World Series.
Five-time MLB All-Star
The former Cubs star had a reputation as one of the friendliest players in the game. He was a popular five-time All-Star who played 17 seasons, not just in Chicago, and appeared in 24 World Series games, including the Cubs’ visit in 1945.
Walter “Billy” Pierce
White Sox pitcher
One of the most dominant left-handed pitchers in White Sox history, Pierce notched 1,796 strikeouts and 186 victories with the Sox (he had 1,999 and 211 overall). He has his Sox number retired and a statue at Guaranteed Rate Field.
White Sox Hall of Fame catcher
An iron man who played 17 seasons with the White Sox, he was one of the game’s best catchers. Historians credit Schalk with being the first catcher to back up plays at first and third. A member of the 1919 Black Sox, he was not a conspirator in the scandal. He also managed the Sox in 1927-28. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Chicago White Stockings (Cubs) outfielder and ordained Presbyterian preacher
Played eight seasons in the majors (six with the National League White Stockings, who later became the Cubs) before leaving baseball to become an evangelist preacher and ardent Prohibitionist. He is immortalized in the song “Chicago” with the lyrics “the town that Billy Sunday could not shut down.”
Loyola University men’s basketball coach
Coached Loyola University to the 1963 NCAA basketball championship after rallying from 15 points behind in the last 10 minutes to beat defending champ Cincinnati in overtime. A year earlier, he was the first major NCAA program coach to use five African-American players in a game at the same time.
John “Red” Kerr
NBA All-Star who became Bulls coach, business manager and analyst
A high school (Tilden) and college (Illinois) basketball great, an NBA champion and an All-Star, he was the Bulls’ first coach, later the team’s business manager and finally its TV and radio analyst.
Raymond “Ray” Meyer
DePaul University men’s basketball coach
DePaul’s coach for 42 years, he became the face of Chicago basketball. Meyer twice took the Blue Demons to the Final Four, helped develop George Mikan — who would become basketball’s first dominating big man — and coached DePaul to the 1945 NIT title.
Founder, coach and owner of the Harlem Globetrotters
In 40 years of barnstorming, this kid from Chicago was everything to the Harlem Globetrotters — founder, owner, substitute, ball boy, chauffeur, coach and father confessor — anything to keep the show on the road.
Former world heavyweight boxing champion
The “Quiet Tiger” of boxing, winning 89 of his 115 bouts with 51 knockouts, was a world heavyweight champion and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Robert “Bob” Fitzsimmons
First person to win boxing world championships in three weight classes
The Cornwall, England-born pugilist won fights in New Zealand before pursuing a boxing career in the lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight classes in the U.S. through 1914. He lost a Dec. 2, 1896, decision in a world heavyweight title fight in San Francisco to Tom Sharkey due to a foul called by the match referee — legendary gunslinger Wyatt Earp.
John “Jack” Johnson
First African-American to become world heavyweight boxing champion
The first African-American boxer to win the world heavyweight title. His 29-year boxing career included 109 major fights. The 1967 prize-winning play loosely based on Johnson’s life, “The Great White Hope,” was made into a 1970 movie starring James Earl Jones.
Oscar “Battling” Nelson
Former world lightweight boxing champion
Called “The Durable Dane” for his ability to withstand boxing matches lasting more than 40 rounds, Nelson grew up in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood. Earning an estimated $300,000 during his 22-year boxing career, Nelson was nearly penniless when he died from lung cancer.
Professional boxer won three world titles in the 1930s
The boxer held the lightweight, junior-welterweight and welterweight boxing crowns during the 1930s. After retiring in 1938, he enlisted in the Marines to fight in World War II, and he was awarded the Silver Star.
Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor
Nicknamed “The Black Cyclone,” he was once considered the fastest bicycle rider in the world
“The Black Cyclone” was regarded by many as the fastest bike rider in the world, breaking into big-time racing in 1897. He was named rookie of the year in professional bicycle racing and eventually took his speed overseas.
First recipient of the Heisman Trophy
University of Chicago football great who won the first Heisman Trophy in 1935 and was the first-ever NFL draft pick in 1936, but he ultimately told the Bears he didn’t want to play pro football.
Owner-president of the Chicago Cardinals with dog and horse track racing interests
Known more for his football and horse racing activities in Chicago, Bidwill was president of the Chicago Cardinals and a major stockholder in Sportsman’s Park racetrack.
Chester “Chet” Bulger
Lineman on the Chicago Cardinals 1947 title team who later became a teacher-coach at De La Salle Institute
Lineman in the NFL from 1942-1950, including the Chicago Cardinals’ 1947 championship season Later was De La Salle High School’s athletic director.
Bears Hall of Fame offensive and defensive tackle
Consummate Chicago football hero. After starring at De La Salle, Holy Cross and Notre Dame, he insisted on playing for the Bears, where he was All-NFL at offensive and defensive tackle and later became one of the first big, mobile linebackers.
William “Bill” George
Bears Hall of Fame linebacker
First to star at the linebacker position, roaming the middle for George Halas’ great defensive teams of the 1950s and 1960s. A Bear from 1952 to 1965, the Hall of Famer was the leader on defense during the 1963 NFL championship year when the Bears held teams to an average of 10 points per game.
George “Papa Bear” Halas
Bears coach-owner and founding father of the National Football League
The Bears owner and founding father of the NFL transformed professional football from a small-time game into an international sports entertainment industry. Known as “Papa Bear,” Halas owned the team for nearly six decades and coached the Bears to six NFL titles.
Bears Hall of Fame and first T-formation quarterback
Luckman led the Bears to four NFL championships. He was a pro football trailblazer, a single-wing tailback at Columbia who was converted into the game’s first nationally acclaimed T-formation quarterback. He was an All-Pro selection six times and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965.
Joseph “Joe” Marconi
Fullback on the Bears’ 1963 NFL championship team
During his four years in Chicago, the fullback led the Bears in rushing in 1962 with 406 yards and in 1963 with 446 yards. Marconi was a teammate of Mike Ditka’s on the Bears’ 1963 NFL championship team. He went to the Pro Bowl in 1964.
Bears running back who succumbed to cancer at 26
Piccolo was a supreme example of the little guy who made the big time on courage and determination. The 6-foot, 205-pound running back signed with the Bears as a free agent after being bypassed in the 1965 draft. Through four seasons, he tallied 927 rushing yards on 258 carries and 537 receiving yards on 58 receptions. He died of cancer at 26 in 1970.
Edward “Ed” Sprinkle
Bears defensive end who later coached semipro team
A standout defensive end for the Bears in the 1940s and ’50s, he was dubbed the “meanest man in football” for his fierce play. The four-time Pro Bowler was also nicknamed “The Claw” for the use of his forearms against opponents.
Bears All-Pro tackle and University of Notre Dame standout
Wightkin played end on four University of Notre Dame teams, three of which were recognized as the national championships. He was the leading pass-catching end for the 1949 team. He went on to be an All-Pro tackle for the Bears in the 1950s.
Blackhawks All-Star defenseman and later coach
Possibly the toughest defenseman ever to wear a Blackhawks sweater with a franchise-leading 1,442 career penalty minutes. The team’s captain from 1976 to 1979, “Maggy” helped the Blackhawks reach the Stanley Cup finals in 1971 and 1973 and played his entire 10-year career in Chicago. Also served as the team’s head coach from 1980-82 before being replaced midway through his second season.
Founder and owner of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise
Son of wealthy coffee merchant purchased Portland Rosebuds of the Western Hockey League in 1926 and moved them to Chicago, where they were renamed the Black Hawks. He was a staunch patriot who advocated for American-born players and put an all-U.S.-born lineup on the ice — an NHL first — in 1937.
Elmer “Moose” Vasko
Blackhawks defenseman on the 1961 Stanley Cup team
A fixture as a defenseman for the Blackhawks for a decade and a member of the 1961 Stanley Cup team. Vasko, at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, was at one time the biggest player in the league.
Blackhawks owner and real estate magnate
Founder of Wirtz Corp., which owned the Blackhawks, Bulls and the old Chicago Stadium. He was Hawks president when the team won the 1961 Stanley Cup. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1971.
William “Bill” Wirtz
Son of Blackhawks founder and real estate and beverage businessman
Wirtz built on his father’s financial empire and maintained a desire to win matching that of the biggest Blackhawks booster. But he’s also remembered as “Dollar Bill,” the tight-fisted Hawks owner who kept home games off TV and let some of the team’s biggest stars skate out of town.
Fifth president of the International Olympic Committee
An Illinois grad, he competed in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics. For 20 years, he was president of the International Olympic Committee, a staunch defender of amateur athletics and perhaps the most powerful person in the history of international athletics.
Olympic sprinter who became Chicago alderman then U.S. Congressman
Representing the U.S. in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Metcalfe won gold in the 400-meter relay and silver in the 100-meter dash, falling one-tenth of a second behind teammate Jesse Owens. Metcalfe later went into politics as a member of the Illinois State Athletic Commission and rose to be a U.S. congressman.
Olympic track and field athlete who won four gold medals for the U.S. at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Perhaps the greatest and most famous track athlete of all time. In 1935, Owens broke three world records and tied for a fourth at the Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Mich. Owens won four gold medals for the U.S. at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, shattering Adolf Hitler’s theories of Aryan superiority.
Chicago sportswriter and official historian for Major League Baseball
“The Dean” went from copy boy to Hall of Famer in a distinguished career as a Chicago sportswriter. He chronicled the seasons of the White Sox and Cubs for more than 40 years at Chicago newspapers, first the Sun-Times and then the Tribune. He was responsible for the institution of the “save” rule in 1966, well before being inducted into the Hall of Fame writers wing in 1989.
Northwestern football player who became a Bears announcer then celebrity columnist and TV personality
Known primarily as a Sun-Times gossip columnist, Kupcinet played football at Northwestern and briefly for the Eagles. He also was a color commentator alongside Jack Brickhouse for Bears radio broadcasts.
Sybil Lorina Bauer
American competition swimmer, Olympic champion and former world record-holder
Gold medalist in the 100-meter backstroke at the 1924 Summer Olympics and holder of 23 world swimming records. She was briefly engaged to then-Chicago sportswriter Ed Sullivan (who went on to TV fame) before she became severely ill her senior year at Northwestern and died of cancer.
Sources: Findagrave, Tribune reporting and archives, Associated Press
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