March 26, 2019

Mickey Charles Mantle (1931-1995)

Mickey Mantle, major-league baseball star, was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, on October 20, 1931, the son of Elvin Clark "Mutt" and Lovell (Richardson) Mantle. Baseball was part of Mickey Mantle's heritage; Mutt Mantle played for a semipro team on weekends and named his oldest son after Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane. Mantle was born during the Great Depression, and his family struggled financially throughout his childhood. Mutt Mantle worked as a county road grader and as a tenant farmer before moving his family to Commerce, Oklahoma, where he went to work for the Eagle-Picher Zinc and Lead Company. Mickey Mantle's prodigious athletic talent became evident at an early age. At Commerce High School he starred in baseball and football. In 1946, during practice for the latter sport, Mickey was accidentally kicked in the left shin by a teammate. The apparently minor injury turned into osteomyelitis, and doctors considered amputating the infected leg. Fortunately, Mantle was transferred to the Crippled Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City, where the new wonder drug penicillin quickly restored him to health. His legs, however, would trouble him for the rest of his athletic career. In 1948 Mantle was playing baseball for a semipro team called the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids in Kansas when he caught the eye of Tom Greenwade, a scout for the New York Yankees of the American League. Mantle signed his first professional contract immediately after graduating from high school in 1949.

He began his professional career as a shortstop for the Yankee farm team at Independence (Kansas) of the Class D Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League and the following year moved up to Joplin (Missouri) of the Class C Western Association. Mantle proved a capable hitter from the start, batting .313 in his first year and .383 in his second, but committed a startling 102 errors in 226 games at shortstop. Still, he showed such promise that the Yankees invited him to accompany the team for the last two weeks of the 1950 season (although he didn't play) and to spring training in 1951. There, the "Commerce Comet" caught the eye of Yankee manager Casey Stengel and opened the season as New York's right fielder, flanking the immortal Joe DiMaggio, whom he would eventually succeed in center field, during the Yankee Clipper's final season. The nineteen-year-old Mantle struggled early in the season and was sent back to the Yankees' top farm team, the Class AAA Kansas City Blues, in July. Devastated by his demotion and slumping badly at the plate, Mantle briefly contemplated quitting baseball, but his father talked him out of it. Mantle rejoined the Yankees at the end of August in time for the first of his twelve World Series, against the National League champion New York Giants. Mantle's initial World Series experience was a brief one, as in the sixth inning of the second game he caught his spikes on a rubber drain cover in the Yankee Stadium outfield and tore cartilage in his right knee. While Mantle was recuperating from the operation on his knee, he learned that his father, who had come up from Oklahoma to see the World Series, was dying from Hodgkin's disease. Mutt Mantle died in 1952, and the disease eventually contributed to the early deaths of Mantle's grandfather, two uncles, and later his son Billy. Mantle himself believed that he would be dead by the age of forty. While he escaped the family curse of Hodgkin's disease, Mantle suffered an astonishing series of injuries during his career. In only four of his eighteen major-league seasons did he appear in as many as 150 games.

In 1953 he tore ligaments in his right knee. In 1954 he had surgery to remove a cyst from behind his knee. In the 1957 World Series he injured his right shoulder, hampering his throwing and right-handed batting. In 1961 he and teammate Roger Maris both mounted serious challenges to Babe Ruth's 1927 record of sixty home runs in a single season, but a hip abscess cost Mantle a shot at the record. (Maris broke the record, hitting sixty-one homers, while Mantle finished with fifty-four and missed most of that year's World Series, although the image of Mantle trying to play with a uniform stained with blood from the abscess added to his legend.) In 1962 he pulled a hamstring and tore two ligaments and knee cartilage. In 1963 Mantle broke his right foot when it caught in a chain-link fence in the outfield. In 1965 he pulled a hamstring and was bothered by his chronically sore right knee, which required frequent cortisone shots. In 1966 he suffered from bone chips in his shoulder, then tore a hamstring running the bases. Throughout his career his determination to play in almost constant pain from his knees, which bore the scars of four operations, was legendary. In fact, the injuries, or more specifically the stoicism with which Mantle endured them, only added to his popularity. For many members of the "baby-boom" generation, Mantle seemed to embody the innocence and promise of the 1950s. His blond, boyish good looks, his unpretentious country-boy personality, and his physical courage, in combination with his prominence as the star of the best and best-known team in baseball, elevated him to the status of a national folk hero. When he retired following the 1968 season he ranked third on baseball's all-time list with 536 home runs (and first in strikeouts, with 1,710), and was the all-time Yankee leader in games played. Four times he led the American League in home runs and slugging percentage, five times in runs scored, three times in on-base percentage, and once in batting average and runs batted in.

His best season was 1956, when he won the so-called Triple Crown, leading the major leagues in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. For most of Mantle's career the Yankees were the dominant team in professional sports. They won twelve AL pennants in his eighteen seasons, and his eighteen home runs in World Series play are still a record. He was named the most valuable player in the AL following the 1956, 1957, and 1962 seasons and was named to the AL All-Star team sixteen times. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974, his first year of eligibility. Yet, despite all his accomplishments, Mantle was ultimately a deeply, even tragically, flawed hero. He had been perhaps the fastest runner in baseball as a young man, but his various leg injuries gradually robbed him of much of his speed. Moreover, as a young star in New York, he was a legendary drinker and carouser, most notoriously in the company of teammates Whitey Ford and Billy Martin. Fans, reporters, and (at least publicly) Yankee officials generally turned a blind eye to Mantle's excesses while he was posting awesome numbers as a player, but no one will ever know how much more he could have accomplished had he taken better care of himself. Mantle married Merlyn Johnson of Picher, Oklahoma, on December 23, 1952. They had been married for forty-three years at the time of his death, although they separated amicably several years before. They had four sons, Mickey Jr., David, Billy (named after Billy Martin), and Danny. Billy died of a heart attack, caused in part by Hodgkin's disease, at the age of thirty-six, in 1985.

Mantle and his family moved from Commerce to Dallas in 1956, when he was offered a partnership in a bowling alley in the latter city in an attempt to capitalize on his celebrity. The venture soon failed, but Mantle made Dallas his home for the rest of his life, although he had business interests elsewhere, most notably a restaurant in New York. He also worked briefly as a coach for the Yankees; as a baseball broadcaster for NBC; and in public relations for Dallas's Reserve Life Insurance Company and for the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. The latter job prompted baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, concerned about the effect of gambling on the game's image, to ban Mantle from baseball in 1983. Two years later Kuhn's successor Peter Ueberroth lifted the ban. In 1994 Mantle admitted publicly that he was an alcoholic, checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic, and wrote an article for Sports Illustrated magazine in which he expressed regret over the effects of his drinking on his career. "God gave me a great body to play with," he wrote, "and I didn't take care of it. And I blame a lot of it on alcohol." Mantle's open and courageous admission of his alcoholism won him many new admirers, but in 1995 he became the center of controversy when he was diagnosed with liver cancer and underwent a highly publicized liver transplant. Many felt that his case had been expedited simply because of his celebrity. Criticism of Mantle's doctors increased when it was revealed that the cancer had already spread throughout his body. Mantle died nine weeks later, on August 13, 1995, in Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Source

32° 52.092
-096° 46.834

Hillcrest Mausoleum
Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park

March 19, 2019

Hayden S. Arnold (1805-1839)

Hayden S. Arnold, army officer in the Texas Revolution and legislator in the Republic of Texas, was born in Tennessee in 1805 and moved to Texas late in December 1835. At Nacogdoches on January 14, 1836, he took the oath of allegiance to the Mexican government and enrolled for six months' service in the Volunteer Auxiliary Corps. On March 6 he was elected captain of his company, which became the First Company of Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment, Texas Volunteers. Arnold led the Nacogdoches troops at the battle of San Jacinto, where his new London Yager rifle was shot from his hands and broken through at the breech. After the company disbanded on June 6, 1836, he was elected to represent Nacogdoches in the House of Representatives of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. He served from October 3, 1836, to June 13, 1837. In 1836 Sam Houston appointed him to serve as secretary of a commission to treat with the Indians. He later served as district clerk pro tem of the Nacogdoches District, until at least December 20, 1838. Arnold died on July 3, 1839, at his home in Nacogdoches and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery there. His widow, Selina, was appointed administrator of his estate. In 1936 the state of Texas erected a monument over his grave. On November 17, 1851, Adolphus Sterne introduced a bill for the relief of Arnold's heirs before the Senate of the State of Texas. Source

31° 36.179
-094° 38.972

Oak Grove Cemetery

March 12, 2019

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (1924-2005)

A multi-faceted musician whose eclectic tastes reflected the great diversity of musical styles found throughout the Southwest, Gatemouth Brown was born in Vinton, Louisiana, on April 18, 1924. Brown’s father, who was one of his strongest musical influences and taught young Clarence to play piano, fiddle, and guitar, was a railroad worker and a local musician who played country, Cajun, and bluegrass. Throughout his career, Brown performed a variety of musical styles on a broad array of instruments, including guitar, fiddle, piano, drums, mandolin, harmonica, and viola. As a youth who grew up in Southeast Texas near Orange, Brown absorbed the country, bluegrass, R&;B, Czech and German polka, Cajun, and early jazz and swing that could be heard throughout the Texas-Louisiana border region. By the time he was five years old, he had learned to play fiddle, and by age ten he was performing on guitar. By the time he was a teenager, Brown played the drums in territory swing bands where he was given the nickname “Gatemouth” because of his deep voice. After returning from military service following World War II, Brown first relocated to San Antonio and then eventually to Houston where he found work at the Bronze Peacock nightclub. During a T-Bone Walker concert there in 1947, Walker became ill and could not finish his show. Brown went onstage, picked up his guitar, and proceeded to play Gatemouth Boogie, to which the audience responded very enthusiastically. The club owner, Don Robey, also was impressed and arranged for Brown to sign a recording contract with the Los Angeles record label Aladdin. Brown’s first singles for Aladdin were not as successful as he had hoped, so Robey decided to start his own label, Peacock Records, in order to market Brown’s music.

Brown’s first single with Peacock, Mary is Fine, hit Number 8 on the R&B charts in 1949. Soon afterwards, Robey picked Brown to be the front man for a twenty-three-piece orchestra that toured throughout the South. During his time with Peacock, Brown recorded a number of hits, including Okie Dokie Stomp, Ain’t That Dandy, Boogie Rambler, Depression Blues, and Dirty Work at the Crossroads. By the late 1950s Brown had become frustrated with the limitations of being strictly a blues and R&B musician and decided to finally part ways with Robey and Peacock Records by 1961. However, throughout the 1960s Brown had difficulty finding other work as a musician, something he blamed in part on his strained relations with the influential Robey. During this period, Brown held a variety of jobs. He worked as bandleader on the Dallas syndicated R&B television show The !!!! Beat in 1966. In the late 1960s he was a deputy sheriff in New Mexico. At one point he moved to Nashville where he appeared a few times on the popular country music television show Hee Haw. It was also in Nashville that Brown released his first series of country singles. He later recorded a well-received album, Makin’ Music, with Roy Clark in 1979. In the 1970s Brown was able to restart his career, this time performing the broad range of styles for which he would become famous, including country, jazz, and Cajun, as well as the blues and R&B he had played earlier. Brown also began touring again, not only throughout the United States, but also in Europe and around the world. On several stints he toured as a music ambassador for the United States State Department.

During the late 1970s Brown signed with Real Records, and by the 1980s he was enjoying success recording for both Alligator and Rounder Records. In 1982 Brown’s Alright Again received a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. He also appeared several times on the PBS television series Austin City Limits. Brown’s second release through Rounder Records, One More Mile (1982), along with the re-release of his earlier Peacock recordings, brought him more acclaim. Brown won eight W. C. Handy Awards. He received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 1997 and was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1999. Brown’s independent spirit and eclectic repertoire influenced a variety of other musicians, including Guitar Slim, Albert Collins, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Brown’s wide-ranging tastes also helped broaden the parameters of blues music and redefine the entire blues repertoire. In the summer of 2004 Brown was diagnosed with lung cancer. Since he was given only a 15 percent chance to survive after chemotherapy, he decided against treatment. His final album, Timeless, was released on the Hightone label in 2004. Despite failing health, Brown continued to perform at various festivals, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April 2005. After being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, he died at his brother’s home in Orange, Texas, on September 10, 2005. Brown was given a military funeral due to his honorable discharge following World War II, and he was laid to rest at the Hollywood Cemetery in Orange. During his lifetime, Brown had married and divorced three times. His survivors included four children, Renee, Ursula, Celeste, and Dwayne. Brown is honored as a music legend in the Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Music Hall of Fame in Port Arthur. A Texas Historical Marker honoring Brown was dedicated at his gravesite in 2012. Source 

30° 06.141
-093° 43.408

Hollywood Community Cemetery

March 5, 2019

Harold Joseph "Hal" Woodeshick (1932-2009)

Born on August 24, 1932 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Woodeshick signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1950. His time with them consisted of only one inning pitched for the Carbondale Pioneers, the Phillies' North Atlantic League team. He split his 1951 campaign with a pair of independent minor league clubs: the Duluth Dukes of the Northern League and the Youngstown A's of the Middle Atlantic League. He joined the New York Giants organization in 1952, winning thirteen decisions that year with the Kingsport Cherokees of the Appalachian League and fourteen in 1955 with the Danville Leafs of the Carolina League. He served in the United States Army during the two years between those seasons. He was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the minor league draft on November 27, 1955. A twelve-game winner with the Charleston Senators in 1956, he made his major league debut later that year on September 14 with a loss against the New York Yankees. His only other appearance with the Tigers came ten days later on September 24 in another start at home which resulted in him yielding four runs again and earning his second straight loss. He returned to the minors in 1957, dividing his time between Charleston and the Augusta Tigers. He was traded to Cleveland Indians on February 18, 1958. Woodeshick split the 1958 campaign between the Indians and its top farm team in San Diego, and began the next one with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was dealt to the Washington Senators on May 25, 1959. After that franchise moved west and became the Minnesota Twins, he was picked in the 1960 MLB expansion draft by the second Washington Senators on December 14, 1960.

He returned to the Detroit Tigers just under six months later on June 5, 1961. Woodeshick was on the Houston Colt .45s roster for the expansion team's inaugural opening day in 1962. The acquisition was a big risk because Woodeshick was prone to wildness with his pitches and had problems with his fielding. He spent most of his first Colt .45s spring training working to correct his inability to make accurate throws to the first baseman after cleanly fielding ground balls. He started in 26 of his 31 appearances in 1962. In the Colt .45s' second-ever regular season contest on April 11, its first at night, he pitched eight innings and endured a one-hour rain delay in the fourth to earn a victory over the Chicago Cubs. He finished the campaign with a 5-16 record due to a pair of nagging injuries. A slow-healing throat infection had left him out of playing shape at midseason. By the time he was released at year's end, his back pain was so debilitating that his wife had to drive him back to their Pennsylvania home. After two spinal taps failed to provide a cure, his problem was remedied by a chiropractor who prescribed an exercise regimen. He returned to the Colt .45s as its first-ever legitimate closer in 1963, winning eleven games with a team-leading ten saves and a 1.97 ERA. Woodeshick pitched two scoreless innings in the 1963 MLB All-Star Game, striking out Joe Pepitone in the sixth and Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew in the seventh. His best year in the majors was 1964 when he led the senior circuit in saves with 23. A trade deadline deal on June 15, 1965 sent him to the Cardinals. As a member of the 1967 World Series Champions, Woodeshick's only appearance in the Fall Classic was a scoreless bottom half of the eighth inning in Game Six. His professional baseball career ended when he was released by the Cardinals on October 20, 1967, only eight days after The Series concluded. Hal Woodeshick died on June 14, 2009 after a long illness and was buried in Houston.

29° 46.734
-095° 36.893

Botanical Garden
Memorial Oaks Cemetery