Luke Easter: Slugger, barrier breaker and sausage maker

       By Steve Cichon

There is really so much to say about Luke Easter.

Luke Easter was a Home Run King and a Sausage King

Perhaps Buffalo’s greatest sports hero of the 1950s, the hulking legendary Negro League star was one of the first handful of black men to play in the American League.

After two years of slugging home runs for the Cleveland Indians, Easter came to the Buffalo Bisons and the short right field fence at Offermann Stadium and became an instant fan favorite, sending balls over the fence and over the scoreboard. He was the first black man to play for the Bisons in the modern era.

Even wearing glasses, Easter was still one of the great home run hitters in baseball when he joined the Bisons in 1955, and his 40 homers helped him grab the 1957 International League MVP Award.

The story of Luke Easter as a ball-playing sausage maker made national news on several occasions.

He wouldn’t have admitted it then, but the first baseman was 40 when he joined the Bisons. Although he did wind up playing until the age of 49 with the Rochester Red Wings, Easter had been making plans for the days after his playing career by making sausage. Professionally.

Luke Easter runs the sausage grinder.

Easter’s first dalliance in the world of processed meats came in Cleveland, where his brother-in-law was a butcher.

“You know, good sausage is just like a good woman. Hard to find. And I got both,” Easter told a throng of fans at a meat store in Akron, Ohio. But in Cleveland, it was his name on someone else’s sausage. In Buffalo, he was president of Luke Easter’s Sausage Products, on Bailey Avenue near Genesee.

Baseball in the sausage pan.

Aside from providing some side income, working on the trucks delivering sausage provided the kind of exercise Easter needed to keep his body going during the offseason. And throwing around 100-pound bags in the factory, Easter said in one interview, was better than the workouts he’d get in at the Michigan Avenue YMCA.

After Easter was cut by the Bisons and picked up by the Red Wings, a “Luke Easter Night” was held during a doubleheader at Rochester’s Norton Street Stadium between the Herd and the Red Wings, hoping to attract some Buffalonians to make the trip.

Among the plaudits and gifts he received were a diamond watch, a color TV, an electric razor and five pounds of a rival brand’s wieners.

Luke Easter hands out sausage samples.

Buffalo in the ’60s: Luke Easter’s 500-foot home run

By Steve Cichon

It’s spring in Western New York. For most of the last 137 years, that has meant getting ready for Bisons baseball.

Buffalo News archives

This 1957 photo shows Offermann Stadium, home of the Bisons from 1924 to 1960, and the path of Luke Easter’s record 500-plus-foot home run over the scoreboard that year. It was the first time that it have ever been done during a game in the park’s 33-year history — although legend had it that Babe Ruth once hit a ball over the scoreboard during an exhibition.

The outfield billboards are an interesting snapshot of life in Buffalo in 1957 as well.

WKBW’s clock advertises the station that wouldn’t become Buffalo’s top 40 rock ‘n’ roll leader for another year yet. Weber’s Mustard remains a Buffalo favorite, but Madison Cab, Don Allen Chevy and the rest all only exist in Buffalo memories.