By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist

Luke Easter – Signed by the Bisons in 1956

Luke Easter’s timing was a bit off. If he had been born 20 years later, he’d be remembered as one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history. However, the first baseman has a special spot in the hearts of Buffalo baseball fans.

Easter was born in 1915, and didn’t even receive a chance to play in the Negro Leagues until after World War II. He joined the Homestead Grays in 1947, replacing the late Josh Gibson in the cleanup spot. In 1949, Luke joined the Cleveland Indians as the 11th black player in major league history. He posted some good numbers before his release in 1953.

From there, Easter bounced around the minor leagues a bit, hitting wherever he went. He landed in Buffalo in 1956, and quickly became one of the most popular players in Buffalo’s baseball history. In his first season here, Easter hit .306 with 35 homers and 106 RBIs. In 1957, he twice he hit baseballs over the scoreboard in dead center field in Offermann Stadium.

A year later, the Bisons organization signed a contract with the Phillies, and they needed room for a slugging prospect named Francisco Herrera. Easter was the odd man out, and moved to Rochester through retirement in 1964. Both the Bisons and Red Wings retired his number. It was front-page news when Easter was killed during a robbery in Cleveland, displaying the clout he still carried in Buffalo.

Let’s learn more about him:

(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

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