In a rural cemetery far out in the country, there is no gravestone for the best ballplayer to ever come out of Lancaster County.
A year after his death, there’s just a faded tiny metal marker to indicate that is where Danny Clyburn Jr., who hit home runs in the major leagues, lies six feet under the red earth.
Danny Clyburn Sr., the father who mourns still in Lancaster – a widower who in his sixth decade of living tries to make ends meet as a custodian at a school so long after his son played in Major League Baseball – doesn’t have the money for a head stone.
“I wasn’t working last year when my son got murdered, so I’m still paying for burying him,” Clyburn said Wednesday. “Funerals and all cost.”
Clyburn died at 37 a year ago today from a gunshot wound. He was killed, police say, after an argument at a tiny home that was used as a guys’ clubhouse on North Market Street.
The alleged shooter, whom police and prosecutors said confessed to shooting Clyburn, knew Clyburn since both men were little kids in the same Barr Street/Market Street neighborhood where Clyburn was shot.
The killing, described by a police officer in court as the most senseless shooting he had ever seen, was because the shooter, Derrick McIlwain, claimed Clyburn never gave back to the guys in “the ’hood” he grew up with, prosecutors say.
That house has no marker, either.
A lady who stood on the porch said Wednesday said that the flowers and cross that used to be up were taken away long ago.
McIlwain, 37, who has drug and assault and possession of a weapon by a felon and other convictions dating back decades, remains in the Lancaster County jail. No trial date has been set, prosecutors said.
Clyburn was one of more than a dozen Lancaster men murdered in a violent 2012. But he was the only major leaguer.
At the intersection of Barr Street and Market Street, within sight of where young Danny Clyburn grew up and played ball at the school field down the hill, remains some of the neighborhood guys.
On Tuesday, those guys remembered Clyburn and the crime that killed him.
Those guys, like police and prosecutors after the murder, said McIlwain and Clyburn knew each other. Clyburn was home on a trip, from his California home, to see his children. At night he went to see those childhood friends, so many grown men who hang out without jobs or doing day labor such as washing cars.
“I grew up with Danny, played football with him at Lancaster High,” said Carlo “Whiteside” White. “Everybody here knew him their whole life.”
Whiteside has an Internet rap video called “Whiteside on da block.” It shows the neighborhood where Clyburn was raised and where he died. It was filmed back in 2012 when the flowers and cross honoring Clyburn’s death remained.
Clyburn was drafted straight out of high school in 1992 and played in 41 games in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in 1997-99. In the words of Lancaster Mayor Joe Shaw, Clyburn “was our greatest player ever.”
Yet the only thing commemorating Clyburn’s greatness is a court docket.
Clyburn’s four home runs in the major leagues are forgotten by so many, but not all.
Clyburn never made more in a year playing baseball than $200,000. Most years in the minors he earned far less than a college professor or a teacher. Clyburn’s son, Gavin, will graduate this year from Andrew Jackson High School and has a chance to play football in college, said Latonia Samuel, Clyburn’s ex-wife and Gavin’s mother.
Clyburn’s family has not forgotten him. Danny always took care of his children – a son and daughter – and played an important role in their lives, Samuel said, even after the divorce and Clyburn’s travel in baseball and afterward.
The night Clyburn was killed, his father urged him to stay home. The son opted to see his old friends. One of those old chums then shot him, police say. Previous court testimony showed Clyburn had both alcohol and marijuana in his system when he died.
What remains now in Lancaster concerning Danny Clyburn Jr., major league home run hitter, is a father, a good and decent man by all accounts, who can’t pay for a gravestone. The big league organizations Clyburn played for never even sent a card of condolence after he was killed, Danny Clyburn Sr. said.
“I worked all my life, I didn’t ask anybody for anything,” Clyburn said Tuesday. “I will pay what I owe. I always have.”
Then the father of a major league home run hitter who died from a bullet to the chest a year ago left to go clean a school on the night shift.