By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Tuesday, April 15, at 2:15 p.m., Green-Wood Cemetery will unveil the newly restored monument marking the final resting place of 19th century Brooklyn baseball legend Jim Creighton, who many historians consider to be the game’s first superstar.
Special guests will include Green-Wood historian Jeff Richman, baseball historian Tom Gilbert and special guest John Thron, major league baseball’s official historian.
Creighton, who was both a star pitcher and star hitter (like the Red Sox-era Babe Ruth) for the Brooklyn Excelsiors, is credited with inventing the speedball, the predecessor of the fastball. As a batter, he supposedly went through an entire season without making an out.
He also was the game’s first martyr – in October 1862, in a game against the Unions of Morrisania (now part of the Bronx), Creighton hit a home run and collapsed after rounding the bases. He had suffered from an undiagnosed hernia, and died four days later at the age of 21.
Creighton’s restored marble monument is adorned with a pair of crossed bats, a base, a scorebook and a scroll etched with the word “Excelsior.” Downturned bats decorate its corners. The ceremony will include the unveiling of a large, beautifully hand-carved marble baseball that replaces the original one lost decades ago. A new bronze plaque describes Creighton as “America’s First Baseball Star.”
The marble baseball depicts one that was stitched together in the old-fashioned “lemon-peel” style, in which four sides of one piece of leather were sewn to enclose the baseball’s core, and the stitching formed an "X" configuration.
Creighton joined the Excelsiors, one of the best-known teams of the era, in 1860 after playing with several other teams. The team soon went on a road trip, playing other teams throughout the Northeast and Canada and spreading the popularity of the game. While baseball was strictly amateur at that point, Creighton and several other Excelsiors are believed to have been paid “under the table.”
In addition to baseball, Creighton played cricket for the All-American Cricket Club, often playing against the All-England team. His death hit the baseball community very hard, and for years players would make pilgrimages to his grave at Green-Wood Cemetery.
Those attending the event should meet at the main entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery at Green-Wood Cemetery 25th Street at 5th Avenue, where a van will transport people to the gravesite.