Friday, August 22, 2008

Alex Crosman Holds A Unique Place In Baseball History

While putting together a piece on the Cyclone Club, I was researching Alex Crosman, who was mentioned by both Leonard Matthews and E.H. Tobias as a member of the club. There was some difficulty in finding information on him because his name was spelled variously as Crosman, Crossman, and Grossman. He was tough to run down. Anyway, it took me a few hours to nail it down but I finally found his date of birth, date of death, and some other biographical information.

It seems that Crosman (the spelling that I've accepted) was a graduate of the Naval Acadamy and was stationed in St. Louis in 1860. Another club member, Orville Matthews, the younger brother of Leonard Matthews, was also a graduate of Annapolis and stationed in St. Louis. During the war, Crosman commanded the Commodore M'Donough in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

It was really tough to find information about Crosman's date of death and after running him through just about every database that I could think of I was on the verge of giving up and calling it a lost cause. Then I decided to do a basic Google search and got a hit on a New York Times article. This article was published on February 9, 1902 and mentioned Crosman's niece who was involved in the theater in New York. It also mentioned, in passing, Crosman and the way that he died.

It seems that Alex Crosman-baseball player, naval officer, Civil War veteran-was, according to The New York Times, "eaten by sharks in Panama waters in the late sixties while trying to save the lives of two sailors."

Alex Crosman was eaten by sharks.

I don't mean to make light of what was a tragic situation and a heroic death. I certainly don't mean to mock Crosman, who was an honorable man and gave great service to his country. But seriously. It was something like four o'clock in the morning and I had been digging into this for hours without any real success-looking through census data, checking cemetery records, searching death records, etc-when I found out the guy had been eaten by freakin' sharks. Honestly, when I first read the Times article, I started laughing. And I still find it amusing.

I think it's a very real possibility that Alex Crosman is the only baseball player whose cause of death will be listed in the records as "eaten by sharks."

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