Luke Easter

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Major League, Buffalo Bisons Baseball Player

Buffalo fans have always worshipped their sport heroes, but few have ever attained the near mythical status accorded Bison great Luke Easter. Upon Easter’s induction into the Buffalo Bison Hall of Fame as a charter member, Joe Overfield wrote that “never in the city’s sports history has an athlete made such an impact on the community,” and the presence of Luke’s retired Number 25 on the walls of North Americare Park attests that the impact is alive today. It is fitting and proper that on the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut in the National League the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame recognizes the man who, along with teammate Larry Doby, helped break similar ground in the American League, and later became the first black to wear a Bison uniform in this century.

Given the timing of Robinson’s breakthrough, the chance to play major league ball nearly bypassed Easter. When he got his chance at age 35, after years with the fabled Homestead Greys of the Negro American League, he seized it eagerly. He hit 86 homers and drove in 301 runs in three seasons with the Cleveland Indians (1950-1952), Luke paced the Indians in home runs and RBIs in 1951 and was recognized as the Sporting News American League Player of the Year.

The forty year-old Easter joined the Herd in 1955. His ability to attract the fans helped save the struggling Bison franchise. Taking aim at the inviting short right-field fence at Offerman Stadium, Luke rapped 114 homers and batted in 353 runs in just over three seasons with Buffalo. The 1957 season was the highlight of Easter’s tenure – 40 homers (third highest single-season total in Bison history), 128 RBIs and an International League Most Valuable Player award.

The Easter legend was spawned not only from the accumulation of statistics, however, but the magnitude of specific feats. Easter was the only hitter to clear the center-field scoreboard at Offerman Stadium (twice in 1957); he also owns the longest home run ever hit at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, a 477-foot upper deck shot.

Luke’s legend also stemmed from his generous, larger-than-life personality. Playing in difficult times when blacks were only beginning to gain acceptance in baseball, Easter endeared himself to Buffalonians with his grace and dignity both on and off the field. He endured the indignity of segregated hotels and restaurants when the Bisons traveled south, never complaining about the “color line” which at that time was still firmly fixed.

Instead, Easter wove a legacy as a friend to the community, a generous soul with plenty of time for any cause. In 1997, we give back a fraction of that time to honor the memory of Luke Easter on his induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.