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When MLB resumes, the fans populate Henry Chadwick's grave in B'Klyn



The morning breaks with the news of the death on the opening day. It's Rusty Dust, the brave mead that baseball fans mourn. The news that he is 73 at night can be heard on radio waves as workers commute along Fifth Ave. in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. In 25th Street, the black gates to the Green-Wood Cemetery, a burial ground for many pioneers and dignitaries of baseball, are ripped open by guards. It's 7:45 am So begins an annual procession of Mariners and Historians tribute to Henry Chadwick, a tireless promoter of pastime. He's buried on Border Avenue, past a sign saying "ATTENTION: Dangerous Turn Ahead" on a lot beside the road. A Briton who immigrated to Brooklyn and perfected the boxing score is crowned by a granite baseball with numerous seams. The plaque on the front bears a title he holds: "Father of the base ball".

Noreen Coughlin, a social studies teacher at the I.S. 259 in Bay Ridge, knows the place. This is their fourth class trip to Green Wood, a National Historic Landmark, a week and 40th overall in the last eight years. Their eighth-graders take the green trolley and get off at Chadwick's tomb. She claims loyalty neither to the Mets nor to the Yankees, but considers herself a baseball supporter. She was in 20 of the 30 major league baseball parks and is tracking the time after the baseball calendar.

"Because it was opening day, I said: 'Let's go to Chadwick today,'" she says. "I love baseball, I often feel the kids, I know that many of these guys play baseball."

Steve Estroff, director of the cemetery education program, wonders about the Chadwick display. On the central piece are a bronze mask, a glove and crossed bats. Green Wood historian Jeffrey I. Richman relates that Chadwick had a fever when he attended the opening day in 1

908 at the Polo Grounds. Pneumonia followed, and Chadwick died within days on April 20.

"Henry Chadwick is the type who created the language of baseball," says Estroff. "Foul Ball! Grand Slam! You will notice that his badge is four bases."

Students examine the room. Estroff then points to the floor. The perimeter of the property is covered with dirt that connects four stones in the form of bases. Belts wrap the bags as they were in his day.

There are eight baseballs on the ground of the monument. Fans write the date they visited on the ball and leave it as a tribute. Five balls are weathered by winter. The two strips of white horse's hoof have worn off and leave the yarn wound around a small core of cork exposed. The covers scatter the grass between fallen leaves.

"People leave stuff like money," she says. "What fits the monument."

She begins to juggle.

"Miss Coughlin occasionally left her students here for a few months," says Estroff.

The children watch awed.

Ohhhh [19659011] Get them, Ms. Coughlin!

Chadwick was a juggler himself. He assigned numbers to each position in the field to create the points system of the game and adjust the box score. He also coined phrases such as "base hit", "strike-out", "cut-off", "fungo", "goose egg" and "chin music". He wrote articles about the game for the New York Clipper and Brooklyn Eagle. In 1938 he was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His plaque in Cooperstown reads, "Baseball's Outstanding Pioneer, Writer for Half a Century, Inventor of the Box Scores, Author of the First Rules in 1858, Chairman of the Rules Committee in the First Nationwide Baseball Organization."

"People come from all over the world to honor Henry Chadwick," says Estroff.

Coughlin has set her day. There are more baseball men visiting the 478 acre lot. The inventory includes James Creighton Jr., the world's first baseball star, and John B. Woodward, an outfielder who became a Union general in the Civil War.

"Should I sing Miss Coughlin" Take Me Out to the ballgame? "Estroff says.

Church bells ring at noon. A Cortège drives on the way to a Graveside service. Visits to the hill are now tracked in games. In Green-Wood, visits to Chadwick's grave continue. There is a couple from Joliet, Illinois, home of the Joliet Correctional Center, and Joliet Slammers, a team that plays in the independent Frontier League and rises to the side. The husband is Bryan, and his wife is Jill. They are looking for the grave of Charles Robertson McCree, her grandfather. You know he was killed in a traffic accident at the intersection of St. Marks and Flatbush Aves. In 1898, he left a widow and three children. They go to his property site after paying tribute to Leonard Bernstein, the composer and conductor. They make a point stop and see Chadwick's grave on the way. They cheer for the Cubs and the White Sox at home.

"We're heretics in Chicago," says Bryan.

The ornaments occupy their attention. Jill finds a better angle to see the engravings of the granite baseball, and Bryan, an old catcher, looks at the dirt that is of the type found in an infield. They go a few sections further to their grandfather's grave and find it. She did not know if it would have a tombstone, but it does. "Husband" is etched up. They plan to stop over a nearby hill on the gravestone of Charles Ebbets, the former owner of the Dodgers.

"I have friends who are still upset that the Dodgers left Brooklyn," Bryan says. "They feel cheated."

A Cubs game is marked in her calendar. They will play the game on April 15 when the Braves are in town to play at Wrigley Field. They consider what they learned from Chadwick's contribution to the game.

"We'll probably wear winter coats," says Bryan.

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