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bill gatewood gravestone

From the NY Times:

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Only something so heavy could lighten their burden. Three men gripped a 150-pound headstone around the edges, lugged it 40 feet across the grass and lowered it into the dirt.

“Got it?” the anesthesiologist asked, tilting the slab in gently.

“Yeah. Yeah, over here,” the insurance man said.

They rose from their knees, brushed off their hands and stood back from the grave.

Click below to view photos of black history over the centuries:

“Big Bill Gatewood,” the historian said with a sigh.

For almost 50 years, William M. Gatewood lay in obscurity in an unmarked grave here at Memorial Park Cemetery. But that ended Tuesday, when three baseball fans continued their quest to locate every former Negro leagues player without a headstone and do their share to right the wrong.

Gatewood was a star pitcher and manager in the early Negro leagues who is credited with giving James Bell his nickname, Cool Papa, and teaching Satchel Paige his hesitation pitch. Gatewood died in Columbia in 1962 with no one to arrange for a grave marker.

On Tuesday, he became the 19th player for whom the Negro Leagues Grave Marker Project has provided a headstone. The project volunteers track down unmarked graves, raise money for headstones and install them, often with their own hands.

Click here to read more.

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