Tom Ziegler, Staff Writer
About four years ago, Reds fan David Shannon discovered a pitcher Theodore “Huck” Conover, that played in one game for the 1889 Cincinnati Red Stockings as a pitcher, buried with an unmarked grave in Lexington. Mr. Shannon visited Major League Baseball players graves as a hobby at the time, but when he found that Theodore “Huck” Conover was buried in an unmarked grave, he decided to do something about it.
That was the beginning of “Gone But Not Forgotten,” a project where Mr. Shannon and his fellow “baseball buffs” regularly visit graves of former MLB players. At times, when visiting these players’ graves some will be unmarked. Mr.Shannon helps lead the group in gaining permission from the family, funeral home and/or cemetery and raising the funding for a tombstone.
“It’s kind of a small project that gained a little momentum, we are just a bunch of baseball history guys that like to go to cemeteries and locate graves of former ball players,” Mr. Shannon said.
When these baseball history buffs arrive to an occasional unmarked grave Mr. Shannon said it can be a “disappointment.”
“You think these guys at least deserve that much recognition,” Mr. Shannon said.
The first unmarked grave in Lexington stuck with Shannon for two or three years before he finally decided to look into what it would take to mark the grave. Mr. Shannon said his first call to the cemetery “was not a very good one.” In fact, he was given a stern no, but as Mr. Shannon said he likes to get a good reason. Although, once the cemetery understood Mr. Shannon’s genuine and serious inquiry, he was able to learn how to go about marking the grave.
Mr. Shannon said there are three people that are mainly doing the work for these unmarked grave projects.
“I do all of the leg work and background, finding the family, raising the money, and all that. A good friend of mine is a funeral director out of the Nashville area … and he has a good friend in the granite business for tombstones and helps bring down the cost quite a bit,” Mr. Shannon said.
This “Gone But Not Forgotten” work, for which Mr. Shannon now has a YouTube channel and private Facebook group with over 150 members, brought Mr. Shannon to St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Wilder, and the unmarked grave of former MLB pitcher Hank Gastright. Mr. Gastright was born in Covington Kentucky in 1865, played seven major league seasons, and pitched in one game for the Reds near the end of his major league career.
“I have known about Hank Gastright for several months … went through the process of locating family members, I have full support from them, but it takes a while,” Mr. Shannon said.
Mr. Shannon has gone through some of the preliminary steps of what Hank Gastright’s grave may look like. The process of creating these granite tombstones takes a few months.
“It looks like late July, maybe mid-August for Mr. Gastright’s grave,” Mr. Shannon said.
The “Gone But Not Forgotten” group is not an official charity. “We are just some baseball fans who are doing this … and we honor that money, keep track of it and use it for the next grave,” Mr. Shannon said.
Currently, Mr. Shannon and his group work on the unmarked graves specifically for former Reds players.
“Our criteria is three things: they have to have played at least one game for the Cincinnati Reds, they have to be buried in an unmarked grave, and it has to be within a local geographical location (keeping Cincinnati as the cen- ter point),” Mr. Shannon said.
The private Facebook group is titled “Gone But Not Forgotten: MLB Unmarked Graves Project” and Mr. Shannon also has a YouTube page that can be found under “David Shannon.”
Photo courtesy of “Gone but Not Forgotten: MLB Unmarked Graves Project” Facebook