Something’s been bothering me about Cannonball Dick’s death certificate — or at least the redacted version of of said document. On the certificate, his “usual residence” is listed as 99 West 138th Street in Harlem, where he supposedly lived before he was committed to the massive and notorious Pilgrim State Hospital psychiatric center on Long Island. He died there in 1948 under allegedly mysterious circumstances, and my efforts — with the aid of several others — to come up with why the great pitcher was shipped to Brentwood in Suffolk County as well as exactly died have been fruitless.
So, I thought, maybe there’s a key piece of information about the address listed on his death certificate. However, that address shows up on no other records I’ve found about him, his wife Edna or her apparent second husband, William Wortham. It comes up out of the blue. The last address I could find for Dick and Edna, for example, comes in the 1940 Census, which is an apartment building at 71 West 137th, a block away.
I did some digging and apparently that address, 99 West 138th, and an adjoining one, 100 West 138th, are now a condo/apartment complex that has changed hands several times since the mid-1960s — that’s as far back as New York City’s register of deeds online records go — including being owned by a community development corporation.
So it’s apparently a fairly large building. In fact, here’s a picture of it today. The picture makes it seem pretty standard for a rapidly redeveloping Harlem.
But in the past, 99-100 West 138th — where Dick Redding was living when he was committed — might have had a little more notorious reputation. For many years in the first half of the 20th century, the property was owned Daniel Mudrick, a Russian immigrant who ran a laundry at the location.
But that might not have been all Mudrick was running at that spot: In February 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, the 47-year-old Mudrick was arrested for running numbers, including trafficking in “policy” slips. Mudrick’s home address is listed in an article in the Amsterdam News as 45 Audubon Ave. Mudrick was busted after the arrests of two other people at the laundry shop on charges of holding policy notes. One of them was 56-year-old Thomas Elliott of 101 West 138th — right next door.
Mudrick died in 1949, about a half-year after Dick Redding passed away on Long Island.
But the address was also home to similarly murky activities and shady characters. In August 1936, 15-year-old Edna Blakely, who lived at the address, drowned in the nearby Harlem River. An investigation declared the incident a suicide, but Edna’s mother insisted that her daughter was murdered. Here’s a link to that article:
At another point, William Hanna, 55, a dock man who lived in the building, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $450 fine for welfare graft, while in another incident, 25-year-old Wilhelmenia Green was treated at Harlem Hospital for arm lacerations after a fight with unidentified persons in front of 100 West 138th. And at least two more residents were arrested at different times for holding policy slips, but they were acquitted and/or released.
But, as is becoming standard with this research, all of this may be interesting, but it still tells us pretty much nothing about the fate of Cannonball Dick Redding. In fact, it only raises more questions: Why was he living in a possibly seedy apartment building? Was he living alone? And how did he end up going from there to Pilgrim State Hospital to die?
Unbelievably frustrating …