June 23, 1950 – Luke Easter Hits the Longest Home Run in Municipal Stadium History
In 1949, the Indians signed a contract with Luscious “Luke” Easter, one of the most prolific stars of the American Negro League. Playing in 1948 for the Homestead Greys against the New York Cubans, he hit a home run into the center field bleachers at the Polo Grounds– 475 feet from home plate.
At the beginning of 1949, only the Dodgers (Jackie Robinson), Indians (Larry Doby), and St. Louis Browns (Hank Thompson) were integrated. Easter was send to AAA San Diego to get ready for the majors. He was only the second black player in the Pacific Coast League. When asked his opinion on integrating the PCL he told San Diego president Bill Starr, “Everybody likes me when I hit the ball.” Easter certainly hit the ball, recording several record-setting home runs in PCL stadiums.
Easter joined the Indians August 11, 1949 and became the 11th black player in the MLB. On June 23rd, 1950 Bob Lemon was pitching for the Indians against the Senators Bob Ross. Tribe shortstop Ray Boone opened up the scoring with an RBI single in the bottom of the 2nd. Washington tied it up in the top of the third Eddie Yost scored Sam Dente on a fielder’s choice.
In the bottom of the third with Dale Mitchell on second and Lemon on third, Easter hit a three-run home run off Senators starter Bob Ross making the score 4-1. Easter had another RBI in the bottom of the fourth when he scored Jim Hegan on a powerful line-out to left field.
In the bottom of the 6th, facing Joe Haynes, Luke Easter hit the most prodigious blast in the 61-year tenure of Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Ball traveled well past the 470 mark in center, and cleared the auxiliary scoreboard. The distance traveled was estimated at 505 feet. The only other home run ever hit over the auxiliary scoreboard was by Mickey Mantle in 1960.
The Indians rode Easter’s 6-RBI day to a 13-4 victory. He would go on to finish the 1950 season with a .280 batting average, 28 home runs, and 107 RBIs. Easter turned 35 in what was technically his rookie season in MLB.
After playing for the Rochester Red Wings and Buffalo Bisons in the International League well into his 50s, Luke Easter returned to Cleveland and was working as the chief union steward for the Aircraft Workers Alliance at the TRW plant in Euclid. One of his functions as steward was to cash paychecks for the union membership. On March 29, 1979, he was held up by robbers after cashing the checks. During the robbery, Easter was shot and was pronounced dead on arrival at Euclid Hospital. In 1980, the city park in Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood was named after him and a bust was erected in the park.