Luke's best opportunity came when he was hired to play for a semi-pro team called the St Louis Titaniums. He was actually working for the National Lead Company and they had a baseball team that would play on the weekends. His employer would pay Luke and many of his co-workers $20 a week to work and another $10-$20 on the weekends to play. Luke's power was instantly noticed and his towering home runs made him without a doubt the best player on his team. His team was very talented and also included former Negro Leagues star, Braves OF and NL Rookie of the Year (1950) Sam Jethroe.
Easter joined the US Army in 1942 and stayed through the War's end in 1945. Afterwards, he had tryouts with the Kansas City Monarchs and Chicago American Giants, but did not make either team. It baffles me how neither team had an interest in a man with this much power; was it like neither could benefit from the extra home runs Easter would likely hit?
Finally, the manager of the American Giants referred him to Abe Saperstein, who was known for founding the Harlem Globetrotters. At the time, he had a baseball team called the Cleveland Crescents. It was a semi-pro team that was touring and Easter played very well in 1946. The next season, he was sold to the Grays. Though a lot of his statistics were unofficial, he had a very good 1947 and led the NNL in home runs in 1948. He also led his team to the NNL World Series Championship, the last such ever played.
Veeck bought his contract from the Grays and was planning on using Easter to start the season on the big league roster. However, a knee injury which required an operation kept him in the Pacific Coast League. Playing for the San Diego Padres, he hit some towering home runs, finishing the season with a .363 average, 25 HR and 92 RBI. Before the start of the 1950 season, Veeck had traded starting 1B Mickey Vernon to allow for Easter to play everyday.
And Luke responded, hitting .280, 28, 107 in 1950 and backing it up with a .270, 27, 103 season in 1951 despite playing in just 128 games. 1952 would see Easter hit a career high 31 home runs for the Tribe but he would miss some time due to recurring knee and ankle problems. The following season, he hit .303, 7, 31 in 68 games and hit .340, 6, 12 in 14 games in AAA. His last taste of the big leagues came at the age of 38, where he was 1-6 in 6 games on the Indians team that would end up winning the AL Pennant. Hopefully, Easter was rewarded for his service with an AL Championship ring. I could not see if he did or did not.
1954 was the start of his second professional baseball career. He started the 1954 season with the Indians and then signed with the San Diego Padres. At the time, the Padres were unaffiliated. After hitting his first 13 HR with the Pacific Coast League team, his contract was purchased by the Philadelphia Athletics International League team in Ottawa. Overall, Easter hit .315, 28, 90 in both the PCL and IL. It once again becomes a mystery how a single MLB team would not be interested in a now 39 year old who just came off a 28 HR season hitting over .300. Was he not worth even a look?
In 1955, Easter hit .283, 30, 102 for the Charleston Senators of the American Association. In 1956, Easter hit .306, 35, 106 for the Buffalo Bisons of the International League. He returned to play for Buffalo in 1957 and hit .279, 40, 128. In 1958, Easter hit .307, 38, 109 for the Bisons at age 42. Four more dominant seasons and not a major league team thinking about a spot on its roster for a man who does nothing but keep hitting HRs. However, his last two seasons were for the Kansas City Athletics affiliate, which became the Bisons team he had been playing for.
In 1959, Easter signed to play for the Bisons once again, this time as an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. He would finish the season playing for the Rochester Red Wings, the American Association affiliate of the St Louis Browns. He would play in 143 games and hit .262, 22, 76 in what was his last season as a full time player. However, he still had three more productive seasons at age 44-46. In 1960, Easter played in 117 games and hit .302, 14, 57 followed by 81 games in 1961, where he hit .291, 10, 51. At age 46, Luke got into 93 games, hitting .281, 15, 60. His last full season in Rochester was in 1963, where he played in 77 games and hit .271, 6, 35. He was 2-10 in 10 games in his final bow a year later.
Some of Easter's home runs were some of the longest ever hit. In 1948, he hit a home run at the Polo Grounds over the center field bleachers. He was the first player to ever do so in a game. In 1949, he hit the longest home run in the history of Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. It was measured at 477 feet. And with the Bisons, he became the first player to ever hit a home run over the center field scoreboard at their home park. He would do that again later the same month.
Bill James ranks Easter as the second best offensive 1B in the history of the Negro Leagues, behind Buck Leonard. The fact that Luke played just the two seasons officially in the Negro Leagues may insult some other players who played in the Negro Leagues longer. My counter to that would be the fact that the man was deserving to have played much longer in the leagues himself, an amazing talent that scouts failed to catch onto. It was completely wrong to have a 6 ft 4, 240 lb power hitting 1B who does not sign his first pro contact or agree to play professionally until he is 31 years old. I am not putting that on Easter. It is interesting to see how many home runs Luke Easter could have hit if he started playing pro ball in his early 20s. According to baseball reference, Easter hit 269 home runs in the minor leagues, 93 more in the big leagues and another 5 in the Negro Leagues. It is understood how the Negro League number is nowhere near accurate. It is probably fair to estimate his Negro Leagues home run total to be somewhere between 40 and 50.