Today in Tribe History: August 4, 1915
Bob Toth | On 04, Aug 2019
Luke Easter is born in Jonestown, Mississippi, according to a birth certificate and census research, but not necessarily by the future Indians player himself.
The big left-handed hitting first baseman and outfielder seemed to have some fun with those who questioned his age both during his playing days and in the time following his career. He at times claimed 1911, 1913, 1914, and 1921 as his years of birth. He was one of ten children in his family and found himself involved in World War II like so many others of his day.
He eventually turned to baseball, barnstorming briefly before joining the Homestead Grays of the Negro National League. He played two years for Homestead while also playing winter ball in several locations before the Indians’ Bill Veeck signed him to a contract in 1949. He spent most of the season in the minors with the Triple-A San Diego Padres, but debuted in mid-August and played 21 games for the Indians, hitting .222. He would become a regular starter for the team the following season, hitting .280 with 28 homers and 107 RBI, the latter of which would be a career-high. He would hit 27 homers and drive in 103 the next year and would garner some MVP consideration in 1952 when he hit a career-high 31 homers and drove in 97.
A broken bone in his left foot, sustained when hit by a pitch early in 1953 season, cost him significant playing time. An infection in his toe led to him being limited to a handful of pinch-hit opportunities for the 1954 squad before he was optioned to the minors, never to return to the Majors again.
He remained active in professional baseball, playing in the minors in the International League until 1964. He hit 30 or more homers and drove in more than 100 RBI in each of his first four years after the MLB portion of his career ended. When his playing days ended, he moved back to Cleveland with his wife, an area native. He coached briefly for the Indians in 1969, opened a jazz café, and worked full-time for TRW Inc., dealing with airplane parts and later becoming a union steward of the Aircraft Workers Alliance.
Easter was murdered on March 29, 1979, in Euclid, Ohio, while leaving the Cleveland Trust Company bank branch by two gunmen, one of whom was a former TRW employee who knew the former athlete would go to the bank and cash paychecks for coworkers who were not able to get to the bank themselves. He was believed to be 63.