Baseball fan honors former Indians players

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple. Baseball fan Terry Klausman of Akron kneels down in front of the gravestone of MLB player Robert L. Wood with Wood’s wife, Margaret C. Wood, gravestone in background at Liberty’s Church Hill Cemetery.

LIBERTY — Visiting graves can be a solemn occasion. For Terry Klausman, this solemn occasion is a fitting tribute to his own sports heroes and to those from his beloved Cleveland Indians.

Monday afternoon, Klausman, of Akron, was in Churchill Cemetery in Liberty to honor a former Indian who won’t be on many people’s radar.

Klausman had learned that Bob Woods, former catcher for the Tribe from 1901 to 1902, and his wife, Margaret, were buried in the cemetery. Prior to visiting the cemetery to pay tribute to Woods, Klausman called the Liberty Township cemetery sexton, Tim Monroe, to ask where the Woods’ were buried.

“I had no idea the size of the cemetery so I called ahead to see if they could help me out with a section map or something like that. He said there was nothing there, you come in and, true as he said, Bob’s right up front,” Klausman said.

When the initial visit took place, Klausman said he was overwhelmed with sadness because in his eyes, Woods is significant.

“He was in the very first box score and the very first Cleveland Blues game in the history of the franchise. I thought he was amazing. He hit .292 and .295 at 35- and 36-years-old,” Klausman said.

Woods’ history is pretty noteworthy, however. It’s not every day you hear of a 32-year-old rookie in Major League Baseball. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Woods erased six years off of his life before joining the majors.

“He lied about his age. He wanted to play so bad. He lied about his age and where he was from so he’s kind of a mystery man,” Klausman described.

In terms of honoring the “mystery man,” Klausman asked for help from Kathy Blackstone of Blackstone Funeral Home to get some kind of indicator for Woods and his wife, who found a home in Trumbull County once Woods retired from baseball.

“When I went there, I was unsatisfied. There was a flag and a little plastic thing. They didn’t even know Bob Woods’ wife’s name,” Klausman said. “All her records were lost in a fire. She died in 1922. I had to hire a private investigator, Tim Monroe did his investigating and the funeral home did their investigating and we determined through census records that her name was Margaret Cross Woods.”

He noted that he originally wanted a new grave marker for Bob Woods, but once it was determined Margaret was alongside him, Klausman knew he needed to get something for her too.

“I got him a marker and I got this feeling that I look like an (expletive). I mean here I am hooking him up and she’s over here… I mean I had to,” he said.

Klausman has a ritual, which he calls his “visit protocol,” when visiting gravesites. He first says the Lord’s Prayer, then cleans up the area and the gravestone itself.

“I clean the marker, make a print of the entire marker and leave a tribute,” he said.

The fitting tribute for these ballplayers is what he calls an “info-ball” containing important information on who is buried beneath.

Klausman has visited upwards of 50 different gravesites of former Indians players, owners, managers, groundskeepers, play-by-play announcers and equipment managers.

“I decided I wanted to show my love and appreciation to all those deceased Cleveland Indians ballplayers. Baseball has enriched my life,” he said. “By the reaction of the people there (Monday), this was important.”

Klausman’s fascination with paying tribute to these fallen players stems from a fateful day when a friend’s wife, Nancy Koenig, invited him to a reopening of a monument for President James Garfield. In the cemetery housing the monument lies former Indian Ray Chapman. Since he was a boy, Klausman wanted to pay respects to Chapman since he was the only baseball player ever killed by a pitch during a game.

“That was July 18, 2021. I was so moved and inspired by that visit to (Chapman’s) grave that my imagination kicked in,” he said.

Since then, Klausman has visited countless graves of not only Indians players, but other athletes that hold significance to him.

“I felt like doing something good. To me, it’s important to do something for people that can’t say thank you anymore. It seems to be the right thing to do. Anymore I’m just looking for a little bit of goodness and happiness, and maybe for me, this is my way of doing it,” Klausman said.



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