There are a couple of problems that frequently come up when searching for graves, particularly with 19th-Century ballplayers.
First is the unmarked grave. Some hard-living players died as paupers, and others had no surviving family to handle their affairs.
Second is 19th-Century cemetery paperwork. Sometimes records are very orderly. Other times, not so much. For example, if you can figure out exactly where Ned Williamson is buried in Section 6 of Rosehill Cemetery, you’re doing better than anyone who works there.
Poor Sam Shaw suffered from both of those problems.
Shaw was a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles (1888) and Chicago Colts (1893). Thanks to confusion with his burial records, anyone who was looking for his grave was looking in the wrong cemetery.
Shaw, a Baltimore native, got his professional baseball start pitching for the Orioles of the American Association in 1888. In six starts, he went 2-4 with a 3.40 ERA, striking out 22 while walking 15 and allowing two home runs. He completed all six games.
He then started two games for the Colts (Cubs) in 1893. He went 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA. His control seems to have deserted him, as he walked 13 batters in 16 innings and hit 9 more. Shaw’s career major-league numbers are a 3-4 record in eight games (seven complete games), 28 walks, 23 strikeouts and 13 hit batsmen. He also won 29 games in various minor and independent leagues.
Shaw died on February 13, 1947, at his home in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, from nephritis. He was 83. His death certificate had him listed as a retired grocer. It also lists him as being buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd.
Where’s the mystery?
Somewhere during the last 70 years, his burial information was switched to Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. The sites that list burials like FindaGrave, Baseball Reference and Retrosheet all had him in the wrong place.
There is no Samuel Elmer Shaw in Laurel Hill’s records, so it could be assumed his Laurel Hill burial information was lost.
I had been planning a trip to Philadelphia, and at the last minute, I called the Laurel Hill office to see if they had any additional information on Shaw. The woman who took my call mentioned that it wasn’t uncommon that people listed online at Laurel Hill are actually at WEST Laurel Hill, and vice versa. Sure enough, her search turned up three possibilities at West Laurel Hill.
One Samuel Shaw died in 1948 and another in 1949, but a Samuel E. Shaw was buried on Feb. 17, 1947, just four days after the pitcher died. Unless that was a bad time for Sam Shaws in Philadelphia, odds are good that the Sam Shaw of interest to us was in Section Radnor, Lot 295, Grave 2 of West Laurel Hill.
Unfortunately, the grave where Shaw and five others lie, including his wife, Susan, is unmarked. The Mees family on the right of the photo is Lot 294, and the Chambers family on the left is Lot 296. That puts Sam Shaw square in the middle of the photo.
Hopefully, he and his family will get their marker someday.
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