Special to Page 2
Editor's note: We heard stories that Frontier Field, home of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, was haunted. We heard a story that Eddie Plank, the baseball Hall of Famer who died in 1926, had been heard trying to pitch again -- in the house he once lived in. Are these true ghost stories? We sent ESPN's Don Barone to investigate. Here's his story of his Ghost Tour.
My hands-free cell phone is now rolling around on the floor of the minivan.
It's day one of the new law that says I can't have the thing near my face.
I don't -- the cops look cranky.
I've now got it next to the brake. I'm trying to get the speakerphone part of it on with my non-brake heel.
|Ghost Tour Photo Gallery|
We sent Don Barone to Rochester's Frontier Field to find evidence of baseball-playing ghosts and spirits.
We sent Don to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to see if the spirit of Hall of Fame pitcher Eddie Plank would pitch to him.
What did we find? Is there evidence of these ghosts? Check our the Ghost Tour Photo Gallery.
This seems much safer.
If I remember correctly left toggle hit D then send speed-dial magic will happen.
I'll either call my friend Denver, or the Domino's on Route 6.
"Hello, seat C-24."
It called Denver.
"Denver, it's me."
"Jesus, dude, I'm in a level-3 secure site. How do you get these phone numbers?"
I always ignore that question, especially with the phone now sliding to the passenger side.
"Hey Den, you still have your catcher's mitt and mask?"
"Yeah, somewhere. Dude, we can't talk on this phone "
"Good, grab them and meet me in Gettysburg."
"Ah why I'm afraid to ask."
"No big deal. I just need you to catch for me."
"Yeah, we're going to Eddie Plank's house. I'm going to see if he will pitch to me."
"Dude, you do know Eddie Plank is dead, right?"
"Details Den, just details."
Slamming on the brakes, as the phone shoots by, I see Denver has hung up.
This hands-free law may work.
GHOST TOUR 2005
And so began a two-state 1,338-mile trek to find the ghosts who haunt sports.
Denver "for-God's-sake-don't-even-think-of-using-my-last-name" is my sort-of-retired friend from the National Security Agency.
Together again after searching the woods of West Virginia for Bigfoot, he promises to bring some of his secret equipment that will help us find the ghosts. Which secret equipment? "I'll just WAG it," he says. WAG, for those of you not familiar with how the Government spells things, is top-secret NSA/military talk for, "Wild Ass Guess."
Not the best of starts for our ghost hunt.
WAG in his car, doughnuts and Coca-Cola in mine, we head out for the first stop at Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y., home of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, farm club of the big guys in Minnesota.
The ballpark is "officially haunted." So say the members of the Rochester Paranormal Investigations.
"So who are these para-whatever guys?" Denver asks.
Knowing he tends to be a hard sell on things he can see through, I make him wait while I finish the powdered sugar munchkins.
|Ghost Tour Video|
• The ghost of Eddie Plank pitches again in Gettysburg
• Lord Archaeus conjures up some baseball-playing spirits at Frontier Field
"They're ghost hunters " I say, stuffing a jelly-filled munchkin in my mouth, " and a coven pagans."
"I took two days' vacation time to look for ghosts, with witches?"
Yeah, you kind of did.
"Den, they're nice Lords and Ladies, er guys." But knowing the quickest way to a semi-retired NSA guy's heart, I add, "Besides, they have pictures."
"The ghosts of Frontier Field."
FRONTIER FIELD, ROCHESTER, N.Y.
When the storm clouds cover the moon, it's impossible to see home plate.
Shadows have given up, dark rules the night.
It's 35 degrees. Lake Ontario wind scarring my face.
Timex Indiglo, my only light.
Three hundred seventy feet to right-center.
Shivering in the outfield of Rochester's Frontier Field.
The concourse is howling. Wind through the slats; the empty seats shout.
The ballpark wants me out. It knows the night belongs only to memories of the game.
With Wilson baseball glove in hand, ESPN cap on backwards, I wait, hoping that floating in the wind will be my teammates.
Spirits of Sports, take to the field.
It's time -- that fraction of a second around midnight that is neither today, nor tomorrow.
And I'm here to see if they want to play ball. With me.
The moon blinks, darkness rises from my feet. I'm alone again, just me and my glove.
Behind me, the longball wall. Above me, a flagpole chattering in the wind.
Looking toward home plate, out of the corner of my tearing eye, I see movement.
Dust between second and third bases begins to stir.
The fence creaks. Clanks from above. I hear paper swirling under empty seats.
I begin to bite the leather string on my glove. I hate the dark; I'm not much on baseball for that matter, either. How did I ever let them talk me into this?
Three hundred seventy feet is a long way to the safety of the light.
And then, between clanks, I hear it. Softly, floating just above my right ear. What hair I have left stands up for in the wind, there's this whispering in my ear, and it's saying
It's a Depends moment.
Glove over my face, I turn to face the demon
And it's #$@!* Denver!
Even semi-retired NSA guys can still sneak up on you.
"You need to change yourself, dude," he says while spitting up from laughing.
"Fix your skirt and come over here. Joe says he's about to open a portal between the spirit world and second base. You need to film this."
"Oh, he says don't get too close, it doesn't happen often, but you might get sucked in."
Standing at deep second base, alone, arms outstretched, is the director of Rochester Paranormal Investigations, Joe Burkhardt. And he is chanting.
"In the name of Peralda Nicsa Gyim Gohm "
Normally when I hear names like that, either someone's head is about to spin, or the lawn guys are here.
" all spirits big and small, of light and dark "
Joe is also known as Lord Archaeus, and is director/leader/lord of a Rochester-based coven -- pagans who believe in the spirits of earth, water, wind, and tonight, the first-base line.
His partner, Cindy Lee, aka Lady Cyn, is on first base taking pictures of Joe's "Shadow Shamanistic calling of the spirits." Two other RPI members, Kim -- aka Lady Raven -- and camera guy Steve, are in shallow right, smoking.
I inch forward, pointing the little camera that Mike our video guru gave me. I'm sniffling in the cold, the camera is shaking, the chant is getting louder. Mike said to shoot this in "Blair Witch" style, so I have to be close.
But did he mean getting sucked into the gates of hell close?
Since Mike isn't technically my supervisor, I move out of sucking range.
From the dugout, I hear Denver shout, "Wuss."
|10 Tips For Attracting a Sports Ghost|
If you are aware of an area or building known to be haunted by the spirits of sports figures, there are a number of methods to increase your odds of having a ghostly encounter. According to Reverend/Psychic Francine Milano of the Metaphysical Center of Gettysburg, Pa., these top 10 tips will help you attract the spirit of a sports figure
1. If you are not familiar with the sports figure, do your homework. Knowing who they are -- the personal details, as well as the stats -- will make you more approachable.
2. Have the following equipment ready -- not only for safety, but also for souvenirs of your experience.
• Voice Recorder: Digital is preferred over tape for best quality.
• Thermometer: Cold spots are often found when a presence is nearby. This will offer validation and is more reliable than guessing by body temperature.
• Flashlight: A must! Ghost hunting is most successful in the dark or with dim lighting. The extra light will help you move around in unfamiliar areas or if a spirit decides, as they have been known to do, to turn off the lights.
3. Consider choosing the people in your group carefully. They should all have a genuine interest so that no one dismisses something subtle that could be reported as being a ghost.
4. When you have your equipment ready, the first thing you should do is greet the spirit out loud. Use his name or a well-known nickname to let your visit be known.
5. It is a common myth that you should turn on a recorder and walk away for half an hour. Spirits don't float through an empty room and identify this little box, thinking, "Oh, maybe I'll say something."
6. You should continue a verbal dialogue with the spirit, whether or not you have a voice recorder. Use your knowledge about who this person was in life. Talk about his sport, the team, teammates or competitors, personal stats and any special accomplishments he might have achieved.
7. Playing popular music of the spirit's era is also helpful. In the case of sports, songs such as the National Anthem might also be appropriate.
8. For a football player, bring a football and a team jersey. For a golfer, bring along a few clubs. Magazines with flattering articles written about the spirit when his career was in full swing might also win them over, especially if you read them aloud or reference parts of the article.
9. Aside from your equipment, use all of your senses. Many paranormal experiences include seeing movements of mist or other objects, the smell of something the spirit identified with like cigars or a cologne, feeling the ghost brush up against the skin or hair, a cool breeze on the back of the neck or a subtle feeling that something has invaded your personal space.
10. Scrutinize everything. You have only witnessed a ghostly presence if you cannot logically explain it. Be critical of your photos, video and voice recordings. If you cannot come up with a reasonable explanation, you might have just experienced something special.
" I beseech and call upon you all to come, to gather about us, to let us know of your presence. Children of the Stadium come come."
Depends moment No. 2.
Out of nowhere, as if on cue, on the word "Come" a cold, hard breeze blasts into my back. No Jack Daniels fueled imagination yet. It's on the tape. Click and see for yourself.
There's Joe chanting, Lady Cyn taking photos, Joe lit up in the flashes, Lady Raven and Steve the camera guy behind me.
And a ghost wind.
Denver felt it too. He goes quickly into the black night, hoping to find some large remote-controlled Hollywood wind machine we seemed to have overlooked.
Nothing but a wall and a foul pole. And two butts ground into the warning track.
Lord Archaeus' Shaman thing done, seemingly safe from being sucked into the spirit world, I now have to do an interview with someone who gets the wind to howl on cue.
Being the investigative journalist I am, I ask the penetrating question:
"So that went well huh Lord." Sniffle, camera shake.
Twenty-five years in the biz, and I have to ask this, "Do you sense spirits here right now?"
Personally, not the answer I was hoping for. "One, two?"
"A large number, probably in the hundreds at least."
That's a crowded one-way portal.
"Any of them around us right now?" Butt-tightening question.
Chuck Hinkel, the Rochester Red Wings' PR guy, who's already spooked by some of the free psychic readings Cindy gave him in the box seats (something about how many years it's going to take for him to make the bigs), has heard all of this chanting stuff and felt the wind.
I ask him a question I don't remember. Something about ghosts, spirits, and the gates of hell. And how his outfield did this year.
"Personally I don't believe it or see anything," he says while looking over my shoulder trying to spot the now hundreds of ghosts milling and floating about in his infield.
Looking behind to see if any of the ghosts are taking their seats, Chuck tells the story of one alleged ghost: "The company that was moved from this site to build the stadium," he says, looking to his right, "that there was a janitor, that the ghost of the janitor is at the stadium, in right field."
I ask a baseball question, "With right field haunted, how'd your outfield do this year?"
PR guy answer: "They struggled, but we've had good years, bad years."
Real answer, after I turned the camera off: "They sucked." Ask Denver, he heard it. He's been trained to hear things like that.
RIGHT FIELD AND THE DESIGNATED GHOST RULE
Four ghosts are following Cindy and I as we walk the warning track in right field. "A tall gentleman, a guy with a cane "
I see no one, but Cindy. Thankfully.
Denver suggests that, "If the clouds break up maybe I can park a satellite over the stadium" to perhaps see the ghosts better.
To Cindy, the seats are alive -- with the dead.
"There are some sitting in the seats, and part of the reason that a lot of them are here is because they love baseball."
I used to.
"Do you think it's limited to Frontier Field, or would it be other baseball stadiums?"
"I would say anywhere that a person has had a love for baseball, soccer, football. When they tore down the old stadium and built Frontier Field, the spirits that were there decided to come over here. They wanted to keep the hometown rooting going."
Later at the hotel when Denver heard that sound bite he said, "They must have been diehard fans."
Halfway to center field, Cindy stops walking, and looks across to the third base seats. My camera follows her gaze.
"I'm seeing actually about 50 spirits over there that keep standing and yelling."
"Yelling, what are they yelling?"
"They're just yelling; it's like they are watching a game, yelling, you know, 'Go, go, go.'"
I don't like where this is going, "So if they are yelling, are they watching something?"
"They are watching a game played."
I zoom in, see nothing, Cindy, bobbing her head, is saying something about ducking the long ball.
I zoom out, swing back to Cindy, protecting myself since I'm not wearing a cup, and she seems to be looking upward. "Do you see a game playing out there?"
"I want to say from the glimpses I'm allowing myself to see, it looks like a game from, I want to say, about 1925-1930 because I'm seeing old uniforms."
"Do you know who's playing?"
Joe later sends me a picture taken of the stands. On the picture he has drawn arrows to several "forms" sitting and standing. Looking closely, some of the black forms seem to be cheering.
When Denver and I open the e-mail, I ask the guy who denies he does this for a living, what he thinks.
Translated, it means that from cameras somewhere on Mars, guys like Denver deny their ability to take real close-up photos of stuff on Earth.
Those pictures show stuff basically as blobs. Denver, while not admitting anything, ever, says that you then try to discover which blobs are tanks, armed humvees, aircraft carriers, or just smelly blobs you wouldn't want to step in.
"So, Den, you think these blobs are ghosts?"
"Don't know." He's hitting the zoom thing on the computer.
"I mean, maybe, I think I can see them and that thing over there that looks like a sea bass." He agrees on the floating sea bass.
Cornered now, just me and him, I push him, "Give me your honest trained blobology opinion. Do you see ghosts?"
"Don't know, dude. But you might not want to sit in that section. At night."
"Suzie Q," the CCR long version, is in the CD player, Marshall Tucker Band CD on the passenger seat. Buckle up ghost fans, we're headed south, to Gettysburg, Pa.
Mapquest is taking us a John Daly wood shot away from the Mason-Dixon line. Home of the battle of all battles on American soil. Hallowed ground of monuments, historical markers, outlet malls and street-front psychics.
In a town where some people haven't left the zip code since the prom, ghosts from the battles of the first three days of July 1863 lurk everywhere. More than 50 "haunted" sites screams one of the many ghost walking tours being pitched around town.
But amongst the Union and Confederate ghosts lurks a Hall of Fame pitcher, Gettysburg's own Eddie Plank.
Eddie's plaque may be in Cooperstown, but his ghost is here.
In the house he once lived in.
And I'm here to see if he'll pitch to me. Eddie, you got anything left?
Peter Stitt, a Gettysburg College professor and editor of the Gettysburg Review, was sleeping with his wife, and their dog named Roscoe Tanner (long story, don't ask), when he heard a strange noise coming from downstairs.
"It was kind of a 'thunk' sound, followed by a softer 'wush'-type sound," he said.
Me, I would have checked the dog. Peter went downstairs.
"I peeked around the door, a thing kind of flies across, and I think, what the hell is that?" he said. "And then I heard that soft noise, and the thing came back. I opened the door. I mean I was tingling all over, scared you know, came out, I thought I saw some light, wispy things, you know, very, very odd, like fabric or something, just something there, then it's gone."
And then there was the night of Feb. 24, 1996. Eddie was apparently pitching: "The ball would sometimes hit the glove, bounce off the wall, and the catcher would run after it and pick it up." Hall of Fame pitcher, minor-league catcher.
Night after night, same thing. I would have moved, he stayed, and the sounds ended the night of March 31.
In the hall I see Denver walking around with dowsing rods, followed by a psychic. Denver mouths something to me that is NSA speak for where he is thinking of putting the rods.
It's not back in the psychic's bag.
"March 31, 1996, why, why would it stop then?" I watch the Professor say in the little viewfinder. I look up thinking he's actually asking if I would know.
He wasn't. "The reason was opening day was April 1, 1996 Eddie was doing his spring training."
Seems Eddie Plank died Feb. 24, 1926, 70 years to the night Professor Stitt heard the pitching begin. "He died in this house, right over there."
MY INTERVIEW WITH EDDIE PLANK
The old Eddie Plank house has new owners; the professor sold it a year or so ago. After sending ESPN hats to the cops and feds, I get the name and phone number of the new owners. This is how I meet them.
"Hi, this is Don Barone of ESPN. Is this (I can't use their real names in that the husband is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and warned me several times not to) "
"So, how you doing? Uh-huh. Good. Do you know your house is haunted?"
I thought it was enough small talk.
The guy on the other end did not.
"Is that yes?"
"Oh, you mean Eddie, you no good "
The new owner is actually quite a friendly guy. "So can I stop by and see if he will pitch to me?"
"&&&%%%***###!!!!! Why not, you dumb "
"I'll send you an ESPN hat."
"Here's our address "
Denver comes up from the basement, still holding the dowsing rods; for some reason they look bent.
Behind him, the psychic says something down there freaked him out when the rods crossed. Behind her I get that look from him that says, "Don't even think about writing that." I promise him I won't.
Reverend Francine Milano is a trained spiritualist minister, and according to her Web site, www.francinemilano.com, she is a reverend/clairvoyant/medium/psychic/author/radio psychic/ex-Jersey girl. Francine gives readings in person, by phone, and for eight bucks, by e-mail.
Working out of the Metaphysical Center of Gettysburg I somehow got her to agree to come with Denver and me to see if Eddie Plank will pitch to me. And, maybe, get him to do an interview.
In the living room/batter's box, Denver pulls on his catcher's mask. I pull out the vintage 1905 baseball bat I borrowed from Tony at the flea market. Didn't want to freak Eddie out with one of those aluminum things.
Denver crouches, I take some practice swings, homeowner lady moves some of the lamps. The cat runs out of the room.
Looking through the living room/hallway/dining room I shout to Eddie, whom I'm told is warming up in the kitchen, "OK Plank, show me if you've got anything left."
Eight minutes later, I'm still standing there. Nothing. Denver says his back is locked and that he may not be able to get out of his crouch. I make him.
"Go up to the mound/kitchen, and talk to him. Pitcher-to-catcher like."
Denver goes. I watch as he stops right before the kitchen table, arms moving, head bobbing. Baseball talk.
A minute later he comes back, "What the hell were you doing," I ask as the cat is getting all his cat stuff rubbed on the vintage 1905 bat.
"I just told him to pitch you high and inside. You can't hit that."
Payback for those vacation days he took.
Francine, psychically feeling I'm about to swing Tony's bat at Denver, steps in.
"Don, do you want to talk with Eddie Plank?"
Lights go off, we switch to night vision, Francine tells me Eddie is here, he seems to be laughing a lot, won't pitch to me, "but you two can talk."
And here is where I start writing the end of my resume.
One of the Page 2 dot-com gods, and way too knowledgeable about the Baseball Encyclopedia, just happened to mention as I was leaving the shop, "Hey, if you see Eddie Plank, ask him if the 1914 World Series was fixed."
Of all the things to remember, this I remember.
Figuring small talk with a ghost, Hall of Famer or not, wouldn't last too long, I jump right in. The beginning of my end:
Me: "Eddie, there's talk that the 1914 World Series that you pitched for Philadelphia was thrown. Is that true?"
Eddie, through Francine the Medium: "No. You startled him."
Francine, talking with Eddie then to me: "There was someone named Joe involved."
"Where was Joe from?"
|The 1914 World Series|
There has long been suggestions by baseball historians that the Philadelphia A's threw the 1914 World Series to the "Miracle" Boston Braves, who swept the A's in four straight. Owner/manager Connie Mack, perhaps angered after his team's losing performance, disbanded the A's after the World Series, and a club that won 99 games in 1914 fell to 43-109 in 1915.
In our interview with Eddie Plank (through the medium Francine Milano), Eddie mentions "Joe" -- of course, he could have been referring to Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 World Series. Jackson, incidentally, was briefly a teammate of Plank's, playing 10 games for the A's in 1908-09.
Or maybe Eddie was referring to Bullett Joe Bush, a pitcher on the 1914 A's who made a throwing error on a bunt in the bottom of the 12th inning that lost Game 3.
Bush, for what it's worth, was later accused by Miller Huggins, his manager when he pitched for the Yankees, of possibly throwing games. "Any ballplayers that played for me on either the Cardinals or the Yankees could come to me if he were in need and I would give him a helping hand. I made only two exceptions, Carl Mays and Joe Bush. If they were in a gutter, I'd kick them," Huggins once said.
"Did Joe play for the A's?"
"At one time."
"Did Connie Mack want you to win or lose?"
"He doesn't know."
"Did all your teammates want to win?"
"You know what, he's not comfortable all of a sudden."
"Which one didn't want to win, Eddie?"
"He's feeling very uncomfortable."
"We know it wasn't you Eddie. Which one didn't want to win?"
"He says it wasn't fixed."
"Someone tried to throw it. How did they try and throw it?"
"Someone tried to make a deal. Someone else refused."
"Did you know that before or after the game?"
"He's feeling very attacked."
"I'm not attacking anybody. You're the only one there, the only one I can talk to."
(Can't believe I actually said that.)
"How did he feel when he knew people wanted to tamper with his game?"
"He was pissed."
"What did he do about it?"
"Not enough he says. There was pressure on him."
"Pressure to do what?"
"Pressure to do nothing."
"Anybody ask you to throw it?"
"I got a J I think it's Joe."
"What did you tell him?"
"He had to think about it a long time."
"He had to think about throwing the game? That's not very sportsmanship-like if you are thinking about throwing it."
Francine gets mad saying, "Hey, he'll leave."
I've pissed off a ghost.
"So what did you tell the guy?"
"No, absolutely not."
"You know who the guy is, don't you?"
"He says yes."
"Is this person's family still alive?"
"He says yes. He's a big name."
"Eddie buddy, I love you but you can't say he's a big name and not tell me."
"Don, he's going to walk out of here, he's sweating, he's heating up my body pretty well. He's not going to answer you."
"OK, Eddie, thank you. If you're near a TV, watch ESPN."
And Eddie was gone. Never did pitch to me, but Francine is now suggesting he might throw at my head.
Pictures she took show ghostly orbs in the kitchen. From Francine:
- There is one orb on the left, one small one on the dining room wall mirror and of course the large one in motion on the right. I find it unusual to find an orb in place, yet in motion. Usually orbs in motion have a small trail behind them. In this case, we either caught it just getting ready to take off, or could it be that Eddie was moving in place as if to pitch? I wonder if the other two were teammates, maybe a third baseman and one for the outfield! In any case, I'm satisfied that Eddie showed up.
Two states, 1,338 miles, midnights in the misty rain, a stranger's living room, Rochester by the lake, Gettysburg by the battlefield.
Spirits of sports, 2005. Ghosts aplenty.
To be honest, neither Denver nor myself saw a one. Nothing in the outfield, the stands, or the kitchen/pitcher's mound.
And of those who took us on the tour, the Lords, Ladys, and psychics, Lady Cyn had the best answer. At 1:30 a.m. I was cold, needed a Starbucks latte and port-a-potty, and had enough:
"What do you say to the people who are going to see this and say, um, you may be a little nuts there?" I asked.
Cindy: "Well, I would say that everybody has their own perception of life, of reality; this isn't for everybody, and it is for me, and for everybody else for those that do accept it and believe, that's wonderful. For those that don't, I think that's wonderful too, as long as everybody lives their life according to how they feel it should be lived, that's the important thing."
Maybe that's why the ghosts were cheering in the stands.
Don Barone is a feature producer for ESPN. You can reach him at Don.Barone@espn.com.