Two Graves & an Empty Gas Tank

June 8, 2023 - 12:46 pm No Comments

Woke up this morning to reports of air quality conditions reaching unhealthy levels in many east coast cities. Those Canadian wildfires are really messing things up. Outdoor events and at least 3 MLB games in the region have been postponed or canceled due to the horrible air quality. We must be in a lucky pocket of clean air. Aside from a light haze, things seem mostly pleasant around here. I hope we stay lucky for a few more days as we continue our road trip.

We loaded up the car, said goodbye to our little Red Roof Inn, and hit the road. Shortly after getting on the interstate, Rob hit a bird with the windshield. We debated for a moment whether or not it was dead before cranking up the music and continuing on our journey.

Liberty Tunnel

First stop of the morning was grave of Pittsburgh pirate legend Honus Wagner. He’s located in Jefferson Memorial Cemetery, just outside of Pittsburgh. The drive took us through several quaint, residential neighborhoods with houses from the 40’s and 50’s. The cemetery is massive, and with the assistance of an online map, we were able to drive up and down gentle roads and find the section with Wagner’s grave. All you need to do is look for baseballs.

Johannes Peter “Honus” Wagner (February 24, 1874 – December 6, 1955) was an American baseball shortstop who played 21 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1897 to 1917, almost entirely for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner won his eighth (and final) batting title in 1911, a National League record that remains unbroken to this day, and matched only once, in 1997, by Tony Gwynn. He also led the league in slugging six times and stolen bases five times. Wagner was nicknamed “the Flying Dutchman” due to his superb speed and German heritage. In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Wagner as one of the first five members. He received the second-highest vote total, behind Ty Cobb’s 222 and tied with Babe Ruth at 215.

Most baseball historians consider Wagner to be the greatest shortstop ever and one of the greatest players ever. Ty Cobb himself called Wagner “maybe the greatest star ever to take the diamond”.

Wagner’s grave lays in a serene spot right next to the road. He is buried next to his wife Bessie, and the two share a patina copper grave marker. Laying around the marker are baseballs, a statuette, and other memorabilia fans have left behind. A cover for the inlaid flower holder was loose. Rob considered some light maintenance to fix and lifted up the cover but discovered giant spider inside and reconsidered.

Honus Wagner Grave

Rob Photographs Spider at Honus Wagner Grave

Jeff at Honus Wagner Grave

Like the other graves of our baseball heroes that we’ve seen so far, Wagner’s grave was underwhelming and poorly maintained. Rob and I have been expecting these graves to be a little more elaborate and well-kept, and while it’s great to be in the presence of these baseball greats, the conditions of their graves have left us disappointed.

In a nearby cemetery was the grace of Andy Warhol, so we swung by to take a look.

Andy Warhol (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American visual artist, film director, producer, and leading figure in the pop art movement. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, advertising, and celebrity culture that flourished by the 1960s, and span a variety of media, including painting, silkscreening, photography, film, and sculpture. Some of his best-known works include the silkscreen paintings Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) and Marilyn Diptych (1962), the experimental films Empire (1964) and Chelsea Girls (1966), and the multimedia events known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966–67).

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Warhol initially pursued a successful career as a commercial illustrator. After exhibiting his work in several galleries in the late 1950s, he began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist. His New York studio, The Factory, became a well-known gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons. He promoted a collection of personalities known as Warhol superstars, and is credited with inspiring the widely used expression “15 minutes of fame”.

St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery is a tiny, rough-looking patch of gravestones up on a hill with a broken chain link fence by the entrance and a single, rickety road in a little loop. Warhol is buried in a surprisingly modest grave near his parents. Sitting atop his gravestone are a couple of Campbell’s soup cans and various art trinkets left by fans. I think Warhol, an artist who lived large and lived loud, would be disappointed with his final resting place.

Andy Warhol Grave

Soup Can at Andy Warhol Grave

On our way out of Pittsburgh, we stopped for a quick look at an impressive mural of Roberto Clemente that we saw on the side of Verdetto’s Bar & Restaurant.

Roberto Clemente Mural

Jeff and Rob at Roberto Clemente Mural

And that was it for Pittsburgh. We got on the interstate and headed north. Got a bit of a scare when we almost ran out of gas on I-76, but we pulled off an exit and found a gas station in the nick of time. We just passed the Ohio state line and are on our way to Cleveland, where more historical baseball stops and a Guardians game await!

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