Even in death Babe Ruth casts a long shadow. If you don't believe it, check out his 10-foot-high granite tombstone (below) at the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, N.Y., that's depicted on the website thedeadballera.com. Ruth's final resting place is often adorned with fresh flowers, letters and even plates of food—in case the Bambino still gets the munchies. "I was blown away by it," says thedeadballera founder Frank Russo, whose site, dedicated to deceased major leaguers and subtitled "Where Every Player Is Safe at Home," contains photos of the graves of Ruth and more than 1,000 other late major leaguers and other baseball personalities. "People even hang stuff in the surrounding trees."
Russo, a 42-year-old Web designer, traces his fascination with baseball's dear departed to the 1979 plane crash that killed his favorite player, New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson. In 1999 Russo launched his site, which contains, among other features, 1,100 obituaries, 1,004 grave locations and accounts of the murders of 44 players and the suicides of 98 others.
While Russo often hears that his site is too morbid, he also has been inspired by positive feedback. For instance, an office worker sent him an e-mail describing a peaceful lunch with coworkers at Walter Johnson's grave in Rockville, Md. Last year Russo, who lives in East Brunswick, N.J., had a chance grave-site meeting in nearby Montclair with Veronica O'Connell, widow of Danny O'Connell, an infielder with four teams from 1950 to '62 who (as the site notes) died at 42 on Oct. 2, 1969, of a coronary occlusion. Russo says Veronica professed her undying gratitude for his efforts. "These families," he says, "want their loved ones to be remembered."