Cyril Harry Shade was born on 6 May 1926 in Spring Glen, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, the son of Harry Luther Shade and Mary Rachael [Shade] Shade of that place. He was a professional baseball player for three seasons – 1944, and 1946 and 1947.
Harry Luther Shade, father of Cyril Shade, was born 2 April 1906, in Schuylkill County. Prior to 1940, he and his family moved to Gratz, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, when he was working as a bottom man in a coal mine. He and his wife Mary Rachel [Shade] Shade had these children:
Cyril H. Shade; and
Lucille I. Shade.
In the early 1940s, Cyril Shade played on the Gratz High School baseball teams along with other players including Carl Scheib, who went on to become a pitcher on the Philadelphia Athletics in the American League. In this time period, local baseball was transitioning from community teams such as were entered in the Twin County League, to high school teams, which were formed because the number of men who were 18 and older was greatly diminished by World War II.
In 1944, at the age of 18, Cyril Shade signed a contract with the Hornell Maples, a farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and played in the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League. He had a successful season, playing in 81 games, with a .281 batting average.
Then the war called. On 12 October 1944, Cyril Shade enlisted at Harrisburg. Following his release from the army on 20 July 1946, Cyril returned to Hornell, New York, and finished the 1946 season with that team, playing in 27 games and batting .222. In the 1947 season with the same team, Cyril Shade could only play in 14 games due to an injury. He finished his professional career there with a lifetime average of .267 and a slugging percentage of .340. Upon returning to Gratz, Cyril continued to play baseball with whatever local teams could be formed.
During his life in Gratz, he was an employee of the Gratz Shirt Factory, a volunteer at the Gratz Fire Company, and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He married Lorraine M. Witmer, who was a daughter of Ralph Witmer, fire chief of Gratz, and Erma [Umholtz] Witmer. They had two daughters.
Cyril Shade died on 18 November 2001 at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.
During his lifetime and for nearly fifteen years after his death, his widow Lorraine [Witmer] Shade, was the acknowledged expert on baseball in the Gratz area. There was not a player she didn’t know or have multiple stories to tell about. In her later years, she made regular trips to Harrisburg to see Senator’s games (the triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals). She was also featured in a video produced by a Harrisburg TV station. In that video she demonstrated how various pitches were thrown – and warned against teaching youngsters to throw certain pitches before their arms were fully developed.
Lorraine Shade frequently told a story about when Cyril proposed marriage to her. It was after the war and Cyril was playing in Hornell. He wasn’t making much money, but a local grocer negotiated an advertising deal where he would he would promote the store in exchange for baskets of fruit. Lorraine said that Cyril couldn’t support her financially while he was working his way through the minor leagues, and that she would have to work if they got married – but they would always have as much fruit as they wanted – and it would be free. When Lorraine told her mother and father about the fruit, the marriage was quickly nixed by her father who put his foot down and said “absolutely no.” After Cyril’s baseball career ended because of an injury, he returned to Gratz and found employment there. After endearing himself to Ralph Witmer, by finding a job and joining the volunteer fire department, the marriage was “approved.”
Lorraine often talked about the injury that ended Cyril’s professional baseball career. It could have been surgically corrected if Tommy John surgery had been known about at the time. Unfortunately, the procedure was not tried until 1974, nearly 30 years after Cyril Shade‘s career ended.
Lorraine [Witmer] Shade died on 30 August 2016, at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill. She and Cyril are buried at the Gratz Union Cemetery, Gratz, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.