Francisco Alfredo Edmead
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 0", Weight 155 lb.
Outfielder Alfredo Edmead showed potential in a brief minor league career that was cut short by a fatal freak accident.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Edmead helped the Dominican national team to the Silver Medal in the 1974 Central American and Caribbean Games. He hit .304/.373/.370 with four runs and five RBI in ten games. He fielded .960 in center field and stole one base in three tries. His three doubles were tied for 4th in the event. He joined the Salem Pirates in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization as a 17-year-old in 1974. He hit .319 with 61 stolen bases and 7 homers in 119 games with the team.
Edmead chased a routine fly ball to shallow right field off the bat of opposing pitcher Murray Gage-Cole, while his teammate (Pablo Cruz) drifted back for the play. Edmead collided with Cruz, striking his head on Cruz's knee. He was knocked unconscious. He died an hour later from massive brain injuries at age 18. Ironically, Edmead had been signed to his first pro contract by the 27-year-old Cruz, who was a sometime scout for the Pirates.
Pitcher Jim Meerpohl, who was playing with the opposing team that fateful day describes the circumstances of his death as follows:
"I was the starting pitcher that fateful evening for the Rocky Mount Phillies on August 22, 1972, 40 years ago. The Pirates' Salem team was loaded with future MLB players, but in my opinion Alfredo Edmead was the brightest prospect on the field. He was so quick, with some pop in his bat, had arm strength and accuracy reminiscent of the great Roberto Clemente and played with abandon. The baseball field was truly a sparkling diamond when he was on the field of play. I had pitched about 7 innings, was in bullpen icing my arm and playing cards with our trainer, Mac Havard, when we noticed that our Canadian-born and very effective closer, Murray Gage-Cole, was coming to bat. Murray to our knowledge had never had an official at bat in professional baseball. Murray had a peculiar way of running on his tip toes and a lot of players took that as though he was prancing , I believe he was showing his self confidence, which he had plenty to show. Anyway, Murray hit a Texas leaguer to right, almost directly over the head of Cruz, the Pirates player coach playing a shallow second base.
This same play had happened about three innings before when our second baseman, Al McLaughlin had hit a similar ball, which was caught by Cruz. Both plays had another similarity, not one Pirate player called for the play, no one including the centerfielder Miguel Dilone or Tom Prazych the first baseman or Craig Reynolds the shortstop, and of course neither Cruz nor Edmead communicated, the phrase every little leaguer is drilled to say " I got it" or "mine". I was there, no more that 100 feet away and never heard a peep from anyone, on either play.
The first time the ball was hit by our team to shallow right, no incident, the second time, Edmead dove and crashed head first into Cruz's bent leg. Both Mac Havard and I thought Cruz's leg must be broken, since it looked to us that Edmead's shoulder hit Cruz squarely on the knee and because the sound was like a pumpkin being smashed on a sidewalk. Cruz was rolling over in pain, Edmead was flat on his stomach not moving, arms by his side. Tom Prazych was trailing the play, and we knew by his reaction when he got close to Edmead that something was terribly wrong. Tom turned away, dropped to his knees and started to heave. Miguel Dilone also came into the play area, and stood motionless. At that point, Mac being the only medically trained person on the playing field looked at me and said "come on Pool, we need to help". When we got there the sight was something I have tried to put out of my mind. Cruz was seated on the ground, rolling up his pant leg, still very much in pain, but then we saw he had a knee brace., the old-fashioned kind with steel braces on each side. That damned steel had been like an axe to Edmeads head; with his left side of his skull from the frontal lobe across the top to the back of his skull sliced open about 3/4 inch and the bleeding was horrific. He was also bleeding out of his mouth so, Mac got under his head and held his had at an angle to hopefully slow the blood loss. Mac then looked at me and asked I get next to him to help hold him up, and I did as I was asked.
I hunt large and small game, but never saw any wounds or bleeding that compared with that evening in such a short period of time. As we held that young man, Mac trying his best to keep his airway clear by tilting the blood flow to the right side of his mouth but the amount of blood coming from his skull wound and brain was overwhelming. I tried my best to look away, but kept finding myself staring at the side of his head, wondering how the hell does a guy get in this mess on a baseball field. We waited what seemed like an hour, but was really more like 10-15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive through a gate in the right field wall corner near our bullpen. We gave up our competitor's body to the professionals and I recall looking at the ground. There was a blood stain of about 40-48 inches in diameter on the ground. Edmead's life was on the field in that pool of blood.
I mentioned I hunt, I grew up in a rural area, farms, etc. I have witnessed death in animals of all sorts, at my own hands, at the hands of their owners. Nothing prepares you for what I saw in close proximity on that evening in Salem, Virginia. They say Alfredo died later at a hospital, I say he died there on that field, His blood loss was so great, his head wound so severe that he never made it off that field alive. I know, I was there at his side. Ask Mac Havard, I bet he says the same thing. We were stunned that the Salem organization wanted and told us to complete the game. I got a W next to my name, Murray got the save, but none of that mattered.
I recall seeing John Candelaria and some of Alfredo's teammates after the game as we headed to our bus, We were in shock. We were ballplayers, thought we were invincible on the fields, and that evening showed us how very quickly things can be turned and how playing at a high level is also dangerous when fundamentals are ignored. Frequency does lead to severity.
I coach kids in sports, field sports and competitive sports. I tell students engaged communication is the single most important tool to prevent serious injuries to teammates and to one's self. I can not forget that night, nor in some ways do I ever want to get Alfredo's death on that field out of my memory. Thanks for giving me a forum to put this in writing, it helps to cope." - Jim Meerpohl, August 23, 2012.
Sources include: September 7, 1974 issue of The Sporting News