One of baseball’s great enduring mysteries has been solved with the Baseball Reliquary’s acquisition of the Eddie Grant Memorial Plaque. A Harvard graduate, Edward L. Grant was a light-hitting infielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants from 1907 to 1915. He often annoyed his less educated teammates by refusing to yell the traditional, “I got it,” when a fly ball was hit to his vicinity, insisting rather on voicing the more grammatically correct, “I have it.”
In 1917, Grant enlisted in the U.S. Army and became captain of an infantry battalion attached to the 77th Division. He was the first major league ballplayer killed in action during The Great War when he was hit by machine gun fire on October 5, 1918 in the Argonne Forest near Verdun, France, a mere forty days prior to the cessation of hostilities.
In 1921, the New York Giants dedicated a memorial to Grant’s honor in the Polo Grounds. A five-foot-high stone monument with an inscribed bronze plaque was erected in deep center field in front of the clubhouse building. Interestingly, although 470 feet from home plate, the monument was in fair territory, so balls hitting it or rolling behind it remained in play.
The plaque reads as follows:
IN MEMORY OF
CAPT. EDWARD LESLIE GRANT
307TH INFANTRY – 77TH DIVISION
SOLDIER – SCHOLAR – ATHLETE
KILLED IN ACTION
OCTOBER 5, 1918
NEW YORK GIANTS
FRIENDS IN BASEBALL,
JOURNALISM AND THE SERVICE
From the memorial’s dedication in 1921 until the Giants abandoned New York and the Polo Grounds in 1957, a solemn wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Grant monument every year, usually between games of the then customary Memorial Day doubleheader.
At the conclusion of the final game played at the Polo Grounds on September 29, 1957, souvenir hunters mobbed the field and the New York Times reported that three teenagers were seen prying the bronze plaque off the monument. Rumors that the police ultimately recovered the plaque were never verified, and its whereabouts remained a mystery for over forty years.
In late July 1999, the Eddie Grant Memorial Plaque was discovered in the attic of a Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey home formerly owned by Lena and Gaetano Bucca. The new home owners, Brian and Deborah Lamb, had discovered the plaque carefully wrapped in a blanket and hidden under a trap door in the attic. Brian Lamb contacted Baseball Reliquary Board member, Wendy Brougalman, a former business associate, with news of the discovery.
At this point, Albert Kilchesty, the Reliquary’s Archivist and Historian, became instrumental in negotiating the plaque’s acquisition, and in attempting to solve some of the mysteries of the large item’s disappearance. In his field notes of August 1999, Kilchesty writes, “The Lambs purchased the home from the Bucca family after the death of Lena Bucca in 1998. Gaetano Bucca, a former New York City police officer, died in 1974. Several calls to the NYPD Department of Records revealed that Gaetano Bucca, who retired from the force in January 1958 and subsequently moved with his family to New Jersey, served in the city’s 32nd precinct, an area of jurisdiction encompassing the Coogan’s Bluff/Polo Grounds vicinity.
“Additional police records note that subsequent to receiving a gunshot wound during a routine investigation of a domestic disturbance in 1955, Mr. Bucca was assigned to light foot patrols in and around the Polo Grounds. ‘Light Foot Patrol’ duty at that time meant just that, a foot receiving light duty near the environs of a bar stool. The Eddie Grant Memorial plaque disappeared after the final New York Giants game on September 29, 1957. It is assumed that the affable Mr. Bucca, with the aid of a few well-lubricated colleagues, had arranged to take the plaque with the intention of delivering it for safekeeping to the Eddie Grant American Legion Post 1225 in the Bronx. The plaque never made it there. How and why it ended up in Mr. Bucca’s attic is totally baffling. Benjamin Bucca, Lena and Gaetano’s only surviving son and a well-respected probate attorney, had no knowledge at all of the 100-pound plaque situated just above his head in his former bedroom. ‘You know, I never felt comfortable in that bedroom. Now I know why! That thing could’ve fallen on my head in the middle of the night and flattened me. My Pop was always a bit of a mystery, but this . . . This is . . . What the hell was he thinking about?'”
Since the above story was posted, the Baseball Reliquary has received dozens of responses, some amazing, some troubling. Someone even accused us of manufacturing a copy of the plaque, as if anyone in their right mind would fabricate a 100-pound piece of metal. One writer suggested, reasonably, that we may have stumbled upon a prototype for the original plaque, since the original as depicted in photographs has a distinctly different appearance than the Reliquary plaque. The Reliquary’s position on the Eddie Grant plaque all along has been: it’s The Eddie Grant Plaque. We’ve read our Lajoie, Boudreau, and Bordagaray along with our Deleuze, Baudrillard, Derrida, and all the other top French players, and we’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that the Baseball Reliquary’s Eddie Grant Memorial Plaque is as real as reality could ever allow it to be.