John L. Sullivan: Baseball Player

John Sullivan, Harmony Cemetery

I had set out one foggy morning to explore the eastern shore of the Susquehanna River, especially the piece of land between Milton and Sunbury, which I had managed to avoid in my travels. That morning I started my journey in Milton to visit Frederic Godcharles, whose book Daily Stories of Pennsylvania had a major influence on my writing and love of state history. Note: more about Frederic Godcharles can be found here: Frederic Godcharles.

The fog, which had cleared slightly in the area of the Harmony Cemetery, began to creep over the field of stone. “Any other stops in this cemetery?” my father asked as I got back in the vehicle.

“There’s a baseball player buried here, but I’m not sure where.” In my preparation to visit the resting place of Frederic Godcharles, I failed to ask Heather-a friend who had sent me directions to Godcharles’ plot – about the baseball player who rests in the same sacred grounds.

“What are we going to do?” he asked

“We’ll make a pass through the cemetery and see what we find,” I responded although I knew it would be nearly impossible to randomly find a single tomb stone in a field of over eight thousand graves.

We had started down one of the roadways in the cemetery – the one closest to South Turbotville Avenue when my father spoke. “Stop. What did you say the last name was?”

“Sullivan,” I answered.

“Not sure if it’s the right one, but there’s a Sullivan over there.” He pointed to a grave a short distance away.

Walking over to the grave my father discovered, I was delighted to see it was for baseball player John Lawrence Sullivan and his wife, Mary.

Sullivan was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on March 21, 1890, the son of John and Mary Sullivan. He entered professional baseball in 1915 as a member of the Elmira Colonels in the New York State League. In 1917, Sullivan, like many baseball players of the time, entered service to fight in World War One. After being discharged at the end of the war, he resumed his baseball career.

Sullivan made his Major League debut as a member of the Boston Braves on April 18, 1920 in a game against the Brooklyn Robins. He played that season and after five appearances in Boston the following year, he found himself a member of the Chicago Cubs team. On October 2, 1921, he made his final appearance in the Major Leagues. The right-hander played all positions in the outfield, along with making appearances at first base during his career. Sullivan ended his Major League career with a .309 batting average, had 153 hits, five homeruns and batted in sixty-nine runs.

Sullivan returned to the Minor Leagues where he remained until retiring from professional baseball in 1925 and returned to Milton. His love of the National Pastime never ended and he would be involved for many years with the local West Branch League as an impire.

On April 1, 1966, at the age of seventy-six, Sullivan passed and was buried in Harmony Cemetery in Milton.

I finished paying my respects and remembered his service as fog enveloped the cemetery.

2 thoughts on “John L. Sullivan: Baseball Player

  1. I enjoy your reports! So much history in our state. I’m curious, do you share your finds to the website “Find a Grave?”


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