DALTON, Ga. — The Dalton City Council on Monday officially named the western-most part of city-owned West Hill Cemetery for the late Harry "Suitcase" Simpson, a Dalton native and Major League Baseball player.
Council members voted 4-0 to ratify a January decision by the city's Public Works Committee to name that section, where Simpson is buried, after him. The road leading into that section of the cemetery is already named Suitcase Simpson Drive. Mayor David Pennington typically votes only in the event of a tie.
"The city clerk (Bernadette Chattam) asked me to bring that before the City Council so that it would be officially recorded in the minutes of their meeting," said Public Works Director Andrew Parker. "This way if, in say 20 years, there's any question, a future city clerk can find when the change was made in those minutes."
"This is a really good opportunity to recognize Mr. Simpson," said council member Gary Crews. "He obviously had strong ties to the City of Dalton, and he played a historical role in Major League Baseball."
Simpson, who grew up in Dalton, was one of the first black players in Major League Baseball.
He began his MLB career in 1951 with the Cleveland Indians and continued for nine years as a first baseman and outfielder with stints with the Kansas City Athletics, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and finally with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1959. He played in the 1956 All-Star game with future Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn and Ted Williams. He also played in the 1957 World Series with the Yankees.
While many believe Simpson got his nickname because he played for a large number of teams, the Society for American Baseball Research says the nickname was actually bestowed on him by a sportswriter during his days in the Negro League because he wore a size 13 shoe. At the time, there was a popular comic strip called "Toonerville Folks" that had a character named Suitcase Simpson who had feet as large as a suitcase.
“At first, I didn’t like the name,” Simpson said, according to the society's website. "Now I’m used to it.”
The society said Simpson's nickname in Dalton was "Goody" because he was a kind person, always willing to help others out.