With the opening of major league baseball’s 2014 season this week, have you ever wondered if you might be related to some of baseball’s greats? Wouldn’t it be amazing to find Cy Young, Casey Stengall, Frank Robinson, or Lou Gehrig in your lineage? FamilySearch.org is honoring the open day of Major League Baseball by inviting families to freely preserve photos and share the stories of the ancestors who played America’s favorite pastime. I took a look.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I have any professional baseball players in my family tree, but I did find fascinating photos, facts, and stories of my own ancestors that have me excited and wanting to know more about my heritage.
I was pleasantly surprised with all the information you can now find. The stories I discovered online were intriguing. Have you heard of Roy Castleton? It appears he was the first Mormon to play in the major leagues. Here are a few interesting facts I discovered on FamilySearch.org about Roy and a few other notable ball players I admire:
According to US census records, Royal Eugene Castleton’s parents hailed from England. Roy was not only an athlete but a strong student who excelled at mathematics. He was a relief pitcher for the New York Highlanders and the Cincinnati Reds. Castleton was remembered for his early performance in the Southern Association and for pitching a perfect game while playing in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League. He was forced to retire early because of chronic health problems. After retiring from baseball, Castleton returned to Salt Lake City, where he married and established a lucrative practice as an accountant.
I found Cy (Denton) Young, in the Boston birth records at FamilySearch.org. He compiled 511 wins, and some of his pitching records still stand. He got his nickname from the fences he destroyed. Were they destroyed from his pitches or from his hitting? The fences looked like a cyclone had hit them. When Young’s career began, pitchers delivered the baseball underhand, and fouls were not counted as strikes. Young, incredibly, did not wear a glove until his sixth season.
Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengall not only delighted in sandlot baseball but also played baseball, football, and basketball at Central High School in Kansas City Missouri. Even with baseball state championships under his belt, he had no visions of professional sports. His aspirations were to have a career in dentistry, and he saved enough money from his early minor league experience to train to become a dentist. His nickname originally came from the initials of his hometown of Kansas City, and yes, he is the Casey who influenced the poem “Casey at the Bat.” I saw his World War I draft registration card online and his status through many of the online censuses.
Frank Robison, as many who have seen the movie know, was the first African-American player and manager in the major league. He was the only player to win league MVP (most valuable player) in both the National and American Leagues. Robinson had a batting style of crowding the plate that was considered gutsy for his time. Because of his unique style he experienced many knockdowns and racked up high HBP (hit-by-pitch) totals. Robinson dealt with a lot of prejudice and broke down many barriers for minorities in athletics.
You might know the famous baseball player as “The Iron Horse” or by his given name Henry Louis Gehrig. Gehrig was known for his prowess as a hitter and his durability. That explains all 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs. Gehrig was the first major league baseball player to have his uniform number retired. Gehrig was stricken with ALS, a disorder commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig ’s disease, and was forced to retire at age 36. He died two years later. I was most impressed with Gehrig. When he was unable to play to his abilities, he benched himself “for the good of the team.” His coach told Gehrig whenever he wanted to play again, the position was his. The 1940 US Census notes Gehrig’s occupation as a parole officer.
How incredible would it be if families of athletes would document all the stories they knew and preserved them online using free services like FamilySearch? The entire world and future generations would have access to literally thousands of fascinating stories of famous and some not so famous sports heroes.
Whether your ancestor is a major league baseball star or average people who attended a game, their story is important.
This story was written and submitted by Gary Stevens and Jeff Svare