Now that they have secured a naming-rights agreement for Sahlen Field, there are calls for the Buffalo Bisons (Class AAA; International League) to incorporate a new tribute to Luke Easter.
Born in Mississippi at a time when the state was under Jim Crow laws, Easter went on to play a stint in the Negro Leagues before debuting in the majors in 1949 with the Cleveland Indians. He would later play for the Bisons, spending three-plus seasons with the team and cementing his place in Buffalo baseball lore by hitting some tape measure home runs at Offermann Stadium and endearing himself to the city.
The Bisons already have some tributes to the late Easter in place at Sahlen Field, including a retirement of his number 25. However, Buffalo News columnist Sean Kirst suggested earlier this year that the Bisons incorporate Luke Easter Park into the name of their ballpark. That came at a point where the naming-rights agreement for the ballpark–then known as Coca-Cola Field–was approaching its current naming-rights agreement, and the Bisons announced this week that Buffalo-based Sahlen Packing Company had signed a 10-year naming rights deal.
Easter, however, could still be honored in another way. As Kirst suggested in a recent column, a statue at the front of the ballpark that emphasizes Easter’s community outreach would be a fitting tribute:
In an outpouring of notes and letters expressing reverence for Easter, one theme is constant: The guy loved children. He would go to the Michigan Avenue YMCA and shoot baskets with kids. He would pause after games, just outside Offermann, to spend time with wide-eyed boys and girls awaiting autographs.
Even on the day the Bisons let him go – just before Easter went to Rochester and kept slamming home runs – he said his dream was helping children learn to love the game.
Sixty years later, why not grant his wish? Rather than erecting a sculpted figure swinging a bat on a pedestal, have Easter in a crouch, arm extended, a gesture of greeting near the gate. Every parent could take photos of a son or daughter within that ground-level embrace, which means children posing with Luke would almost certainly pause at some point to ask:
Who is that?
The Bisons were always expected to land a new corporate naming-rights partner, and Sahlen is an appropriate match. It has been the official hot dog of the Bisons since 2012, and Sahlen Packing Company was founded in 1869 in Buffalo as a family business, expanding in recent years to 25 states.
Perhaps another way to honor Easter could be in order, regardless of it is a statue or some other type of tribute. He was clearly a beloved figure in Buffalo baseball history, both on and off the field, making him a worthy candidate for some type of additional recognition.