|Name:||Luscious Luke Easter||Position:||First Base|
|Accolades:||1952 Top 13 MVP||DOB:||08/04/1915|
|Best Season (1950)||141||540||96||151||20||4||28||107||263||70||95||.373||.487||.280||.860|
Every Indians fan knows Larry Doby and most baseball fans are aware of Satchel Paige, but far fewer know about Luke Easter, the third player to make the jump from the Negro Leagues to the Cleveland Indians, just two years after Doby broke the American League color barrier. Like most NLB players, Easter made his MLB debut late in his career and had just a short time with the Indians, but he should not be shortchanged because of racism in the 1940's and earlier.
Easter started with the Homestead Grays in 1947 at 31 and actually used the Negro Leagues as a kind of minor leagues in preparation for becoming a Major League star. After seeing the success of Doby and Paige first hand, the Indians took advantage of the other teams moving slowly in grabbing the NLB stars and prior to the 1949 season, they signed Easter. He made his debut later that year and played sparingly in right field behind starter Bobby Kennedy. It was the following season where he made it big, however.
In 1950, the Indians needed a first baseman and Easter made the switch from right to first. In his new position, he excelled, becoming a top offensive producer, joining Al Rosen and Doby in knocking in more than 100 runs that season. In what was essentially his rookie season, he came in second in RBI and home runs on the Indians.
From 1951 through 1952, Easter continued his prime, despite the fact that he was well into his 30's. Each year from 1950 through 1952 Easter knocked in about 100 runs, hit 30 home runs and batted better than .270. The Indians hadn't had a solid first baseman since the late 1930's and Hal Trosky, but finally Easter had taken over that mantle. Despite just three seasons starting at first, Easter trails just two Indians in home runs (Trosky and Jim Thome) at the position and is unquestionably one of the best first basemen in Tribe history.
In 1952, Easter finally got some recognition for his three straight excellent seasons and received 40 vote points for MVP that year, which would have been much more impressive if the Indians didn't have seven other players receiving votes that year, including five getting more votes than Easter. Things flamed out as quickly as they ignited and Easter played just 68 games in 1953 and then just six the following season. The Indians were returning to the World Series again, with Rosen and Doby leading the way this time, but Easter wouldn't be making the trip. He played in his final game that season on just May 4th and never returned to the Majors again.
Despite being out of the Majors at 38, Easter wasn't done playing baseball. First, he played for the independent San Diego Padres, the team Easter made his MiLB debut with in 1949 when they were affiliated with the Indians. He continued playing, generally in the International League (AAA) until 1964 when he finally retired for good. Luke Easter died just 15 years later at the age of 63.
Awesome athlete and one of my father's favorite Indians.
I was privileged to see Luke play in the International League near the end of his career.
Even there and then, he had a presence you rarely see.
Too bad Luke was barred from playing MLB so long, but at least he had a few good years in a time when many great athletes never appeared in a single game due to discrimination.