Thanks to the patience and persistence of Negro Leagues researcher extraordinaire Gary Ashwill, we finally have an answer to how fire-throwing pitcher Cannonball Dick Redding died in Pilgrim Psychiatric Center/Mental Hospital on Long Island on Halloween 1948.
That’s because Gary FINALLY received an unredacted copy of Redding’s death certificate. The cause of death? Syphilis of the central nervous system. There’s also some illegible text under other portions of “cause of death,” with a statement that a test was performed, but for what reason or to what result is illegible.
As noted before, the certificate is signed by Dr. Ludwig Kris, a resident psychiatrist at Pilgrim, who lists the duration of the condition as “unknown.” But there’s also an entry under “other conditions,” but it’s also illegible, except for a word that seems to be syphilis or something close to it. However, the duration of condition is also listed, unlike the primary cause of death, with the figure being one year, nine months and two days, which is longer than Kris states he attended to Redding. It’s somewhat odd that the major cause of death doesn’t state a duration, but the “other condition” does.
I can try to have a little more comment on this in the coming days, but right off the bat, it could be worth noting that this is a different form than the one Gary, I and others previously had. This one is a “certificate of death,” while the earlier one (shown below) is a “register of deaths.”
Aside from the differences in format of the two documents, they do share much of the basic information, although the handwriting in this new document is visibly much poorer than the first one (and I say that as someone with notoriously horrible handwriting himself).
One other note: If syphilis was indeed the cause of death of the great Dick Redding, it’s almost the exact some thing that caused the passing of the great Rube Foster, as revealed in Larry Lester’s recent book. Foster, who started out as one of the best pitchers of the early 1900s before becoming the grand architect of the formal Negro Leagues.