This letter is written in memory of Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove, on the anniversary of his death, on May 22, 1975. The greatest left-handed pitcher, and arguably the greatest pitcher ever, rests in peace with little fanfare, in Frostburg Memorial Park, within sight of the Mountain Ridge High School baseball field.
Grove was one of four Maryland natives from the early 1900s, who were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Three of the four, John Franklin “Home Run” Baker, Jimmy Foxx and Lefty Grove, played for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics.
Sudlersville native Jimmy Foxx, who is 17th on the list of career home runs, and has a career batting average of .325, was one of Lefty’s best friends. Lefty once treated Foxx to a tour of Lonaconing, which included an excursion into one of the area’s many coal mines.
Home Run Baker was born in Trappe, Md., and is buried in Easton. Though only of average size, at 5’11” and 175 pounds, Baker developed inordinate upper body strength from the strenuous labor involved in growing up on the family farm.
Baker swung a huge 52 ounce bat, holding it at the end of the handle, and still managed a .307 career batting average. Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson said Home Run Baker was the most dangerous batter that he ever faced.
Grove, like Babe Ruth, began his professional career with Jack Dunn’s Baltimore Orioles.
Two years after playing his first game in an organized league with the Midland team, Grove was back in his home county, as a pitcher for the Orioles, when they came to Frostburg to play an exhibition game against the Frostburg Demons. The baseball field was located where the Frostburg State University dormitories are now.
Trains came from the Georges Creek and Cumberland areas to see Lefty pitch. Naturally, the Orioles won by a score of 9-3.
Like Grove, Jimmy Foxx was never lionized in his hometown during his lifetime. It was 30 years after his death, in 1967, before a bronze statue in his honor was erected in Sudlersville.
It took the citizens of his hometown 10 years to amass the funds necessary to build the statue. Let us follow Sudlersville’s example. The time has come for western Maryland to give suitable recognition to Lefty Grove.
Bucky Schriver Midland