Several years ago I was in Rockford, Illinois for work so (of course) I planned a slight detour on the way home to check out the Carl Lundgren historical marker in Marengo. After a bit of detective work (the SABR Baseball Map did not exist yet!) I was able to locate the marker, placed on the west side of North East Street.
Carl Lundgren was a terrific twirler for the Chicago Cubs from 1902-09. During the three consecutive seasons in which the Cubs appeared in the World Series (1906-08), Lundgren posted a regular season record of 41-22, with an ERA of 2.33 and 13 shutouts. Yet he was the odd man out and tossed not a single World Series pitch in any of those three years.
After a pair of ineffective outings for Chicago in 1909, Lundgren bounced around the minors for a few seasons before retiring from the game as a player. He went on to an amazing career as manager for Princeton, the University of Michigan and (alma mater) University of Illinois baseball teams, piloting his Wolverine and Illini squads to eight total Big Ten championships.
As I took a moment to read the inscription and snap a couple of photographs on an overcast morning, a man approached on a bicycle and let me know the sign had been purposely placed near the field where Lundgren played ball as a child. Wonderfully, a youth-sized diamond still existed at the site.
Lundgren died suddenly of a heart attack at his childhood home in 1934 and, as the gentleman on the bike advised, was buried right across the street from where his baseball career began. The man rode off after directing me to Lundgren’s grave, certainly unaware he had just sent me down a path that would lead to innumerable future ballplayer gravesite visits. Somewhat reluctantly at the time, however, I drove slowly through the cemetery and found Lundgren’s marker, lovingly adorned with Cubs mementos.
Unsure what to do, I silently paid my respects and snapped a quick photo. As I drove away, I was struck by the weighty realization that although Lundgren threw his final pitch for the Cubs in 1909, he was not forgotten. Although baseball is not the most important thing in the world, these individuals were the most important people in the world to the people who loved them.