Every time I go to Riverside Cemetery to pay my respects to Jake Beckley, and to make sure everything is in tip-top shape at his family plot, I often leave in amazement.
It's not because I've just visited the grave site of a baseball hall of famer, it's because six feet below my shoes Jake Beckley rests in peace. Buried six feet into the earth's crust is a man who grew up on Hannibal's South Side and never forgot where he came from.
Put all that into perspective and a cemetery — no matter who you're visiting — is a pretty special place.
Next to his grave site and a pending revamped memorial along Historic Main Street in downtown Hannibal, the only thing acknowleding our resident hall of famer is the right field line at Clemens Field. The Hannibal Cavemen constructed the distance to the outfield wall from home plate to come out at 308 feet, honoring the legendary first baseman's .308 career batting average.
Other than that, there's nothing.
Mark Twain and Molly Brown, they left town and are buried elsewhere — but their Hannibal houses are on display for tourists. William Henry Hatch is buried in Riverside Cemetery along with Beckley, and also has a statue in Central Park. Beckley has nothing in comparison. The only way anyone would know Hannibal is the home of a baseball hall of famer is by looking under the "Famous Hannibal Residents" header on Wikipedia. It's quite sad if you ask me.
Beckley's house was torn down to build the new Stowell Elementary School; he has no statue; he has no museum. Disappointing for a town so infamous for preserving history.
But this wrong can be made right, and that's where the pending revamped memorial comes into play.
When people make their way down Main Street, it should be clear a famous baseball player is from this city, along with a world-famous author and notable ship survivor. I propose the rendition accompanying this article today be considered in some form to honor one of our local legends. The proposal is an adaptation of a memorial garden dedicated to Roger Maris in Fargo, N.D. The same memorial could and should be done here for Beckley. It would include a picture of Beckley, a display of statistics and baseball achievements, and a local map indicating Beckley sites around town.
The new memorial will be at the edge of Planter's Barn Theater parking lot, where the original monument was. And to go along with it, a beautification plan, just like in the pictured proposal, is in order. Of course, since there are three landscaping areas along the site, a revamped memorial could be designed to include the three landscape areas — just a thought.
Page 2 of 2 - The old memorial needs to live on too, just in another location.
Like I've said before, Stowell Elementary is the prime spot.
The old memorial should be placed at the site, for all to see, with a marker indicating this was the site where Beckley's house stood. I'm sure the school district wouldn't mind.
Hannibal Parks and Recreation is paying for the revamped memorial and after talking to Andy Dorian about this for more than a year, I know they're going to make sure everything turns out just right, no matter what plan they decide on. Since progress all depends on the sidewalk project moving on from the memorial site, it's just a matter of waiting. Think of it as baseball itself, we must wait for the pleasant days of spring so progress can be made.