Big Luke
Big Luke
oil on canvas with found objects
44 x 91
Available for purchase. Please contact the artist.
Luscious “Big Luke” Easter was the eleventh black player to join the Major Leagues when the 6’4” 240lb first baseman signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1948. He had already been playing organized ball since he was a teenager for industrial and barnstorming teams, winter leagues in the Caribbean and the Negro League Homestead Grays before he became a 33-year-old rookie with the Tribe.
The affable slugger was never clear about his age, shaving several years off his official birth date, in order to help gain admission to the Majors. One thing was clear though, Easter could hit the long ball. His monstrous and plentiful home runs became known as “Easter eggs” and he established distance records in many of the stadiums in which he played. Even more impressive was his longevity as a player with slugging power. After five seasons with the Indians, limited mostly by age and excessive injuries, Easter had a great second act, playing for another decade in the Minors and the Latin American winter leagues. He became a folk hero in Buffalo and Rochester as well as in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela for his gargantuan home runs and equally large personality.
The three Easter eggs embedded in the painting are visual puns on these homeruns, complete with stats on the lids. They are framed with reconstructed cigar boxes, owing to Easter’s career in the Caribbean and his love of smoking cigars, especially while playing cards. These, too, have significance. He preferred Bee Brand over others and the visible ace of spades in the deck refers to his acumen as both a card shark and a ballplayer. It is also regarded as a racial slur; Easter was intentionally thrown at by pitchers in his first years as a trailblazing black player. Finally, the ace of spades is also known as the death card.
After his retirement from 27 years of professional baseball at age 49, Luke Easter returned to Cleveland and his wife, Virgil, and family. He was involved in several business enterprises and eventually landed at TRW and became the trusted steward of the Aircraft Workers Alliance. On March 27, 1979, while on an early morning deposit of several thousand dollars of employee money, he was met by two armed men demanding the cash bag. Luke refused, and before he could draw his own weapon, he was fatally shot once in the heart with a .38 special.
His viewing and funeral were attended collectively by over 5000 people.

"Even after he stopped playing, he would dream about baseball, and he'd be shaking, shaking shaking. I'd say, 'Luke, what's wrong?' He'd say, 'Nothin', I was just runnin'.' I could always tell when it was spring training because that's where Luke's dreams were." — Virgil Easter41