A common theme seems to be developing with the players about whom I research and write:
Where are they buried?
First, in this article I wrote for philly.com, we find that the remains of Alexander Albritton, who pitched briefly in the Negro League big time, apparently disappeared after he was beaten to death at Byberry mental hospital, aka Philadelphia’s house of horrors. I’ll explore that mystery in an upcoming post.
But right now, I’ll return to my Delaware theme with the case of Edward “Ace” Stone, a star outfielder, briefly, in the Negro Leagues. Stone got his start in paid baseball circa 1933 with the Wilmington (Del.) Hornets before stints with, among others, the Atlantic City Bacharachs, the Newark Eagles, the Philadelphia Stars, the New York Black Yankees and the Kansas City Monarchs.
Best known for his howitzer of an arm that some compared to that of the great Roberto Clemente, Stone also frequently hit in the middle of the lineups of some of the best teams in blackball history.
But in addition to his ability to whip the ball from the wall to home plate, Stone was also somewhat notorious for another reason: He was easily lured south of the border, playing much of his career in the Mexican and Cuban leagues, a fact that was lamented by both infuriated Negro League owners and perplexed media types.
The 1946 season seems to have been a tipping point, when in mid-spring, Stone bolted from the Philadelphia Stars and their owner, the clearly chapped Ed Bolden, for Mexico. Stated Pittsburgh Courier columnist W. Rollo Wilson in the paper’s May 11 issue:
“The Pasquel brothers of Mexico stopped feasting on the white major league clubs long enough last week to bit off another Negro National League player. This nip was right at home, for the athlete taken was Ed Stone, vintage outfielder of the Philly Stars, Ed Bolden’s entry in the eastern loop. Stone, one of the real sluggers of the club and whose long hits have kept many a rally going in past years, has already left for south of the border, where he will be assigned to one of the power-packed clubs of so-called ‘outlaws.’”
A couple months later, Randy Dixon of the Philadelphia Tribune opined that the defection of Stone was a big reason for the Stars’ languid performance so far that year. Penned Dixon:
“ … the Philadelphia Stars failed to cop the first half bunting because of the serious dents in personnel occasioned when big Ed Stone, an outfielder, bolted to Mexico and Marvin Williams, second baseman from Texas, remained in Venezuela. …
“It could have been different had a long distance hitter been in the lineup. That is where Williams and Stone come in. They represented the fence-busting backbone of the Boldenmen. With them out of action, it became a case of needing a batch of low-run pitchers such as Barney Brown or Leon Day to compensate.”
And so on and so on …
It is perhaps Stone’s propensity for pursuing his career in Latin America that led to so many gaps of knowledge in his off-the-field life story. Let’s begin with his origins …
First there’s the issue of his hometown. One of the very, very few even halfway comprehensive biographies of him is found here on the site Pitch Black Baseball, which gives his hometown as “Black Cat, Delaware.”
But there is no official city, town or municipal jurisdiction called “Black Cat” in the state of Delaware. But I did find this neat blog post on the site Delmar DustPan, which explains that “Black Cat” was actually a small community near Wilmington that earned its name from the famous night club that served as the hamlet’s cultural and economic center for a few decades in the first half of the 20th century. The blog post speculates that this is what is being referred to when bios of Ed Stone list his hometown as Black Cat.
(That’s all aside from the fact that I haven’t been able to find any contemporary references during Stone’s playing career and life that mention his hometown as anything but Wilmington.)
Then there’s the issue of Stone’s birth date, which is even cloudier. The Pitch Black bio lists it as Aug. 21, 1910. But the documents I’ve been able to find give a variety of different dates …
The Social Security Death Index, for example, states his birthdate as Aug. 21, 1909. But various ship manifests list the date as Aug. 23, 1909; Jan. 2, 1909; Aug. 22, 1909; and Aug. 22, 1910.
Actually, some of the manifests are pretty interesting for other reasons. All of them list Wilmington as his birthplace, except for one, which seemingly inexplicably gives it as Newport, Del.
Also, one manifest states that in a 1939 voyage, Stone sailed from NYC to San Juan, Puerto Rico with his wife, Bernice Stone, née Baskerville on Oct. 23, 1912, in Newark, N.J.
Others feature him on the same page with a slew of other Negro Leaguers who were traveling to and from Latin America for winter ball. One, from November 1936, includes a veritable all-star team — Terris McDuffie, Leroy Matlock, Dick Seay, George Scales and … ol’ Satchel himself. Another manifest has Stone couple with Buck Leonard.
The final documents I turned up were a few Census reports. The one from 1930 has 20-year-old Ed living alone in the unincorporated New Castle County (Del.) hamlet of Christiana with his father, 60-year-old widower Daniel Stone, who was apparently born in North Carolina. Ed Stone’s occupation is listed simply as “day worker,” while Daniel is toiling in a factory.
The 1940 Census has 30-year-old Ed living in Newark with Bernice and her parents, the Baskervilles, and his occupation is “baseball player.”
There is now one final, looming mystery: Where is Ed “Ace” Stone buried? To first take a quick step back: When and where did he die? Social Security says March 1983, with his last SS benefit going to Long Island City in Queens, N.Y. But both Pitch Black and this entry on Find-A-Grave say he expired on April 11, 1983, in the Bronx. I’ve been able to uncover no immediate obits for him, and I’m looking into whether I can ask for a death certificate.
But the most puzzling part of all of this, and one that harkens back to the mystery of Alex Albritton’s burial location (on which I’ll have more to come, hopefully by the weekend), is that, as you can see on the Find-A-Grave site, his burial is “unknown.”
Yeah, somewhat creepy. I found this entry on a message board, and this Negro Leagues Baseball Museum article on Ed and his son, Russell. But finding Russell Stone is proving difficult, and barring getting my hands on either an obit or death certificate, finding Stone’s eternal resting place might be durn near impossible.
So if anyone out there has any information on Ed Stone, and especially where he’s buried, let me know!