Jonathan Knight

The Best Books on Cleveland Pro Sports


Summer of Shadows: A murder, a pennant race, and the twilight of the best location in the nation

Summer of Shadows Cleveland Indians-A murder, a pennant race, and the twilight of the best location in the nation by Jonathan Knight

Praise for Summer of Shadows

“Jonathan Knight has hammered a grand slam of a book in his account of the American League champion Cleveland Indians, the Sam Sheppard trial, the City of Cleveland and our country in 1954. If you love the Tribe, Cleveland and history, this is a must-read.”
-Terry Pluto, Author and Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist

“...describes the on- and off-field pennant race and Series action with a breathless excitement that will thrill readers more than a half-century later...”
-Akron Beacon Journal

“Summer of Shadows captures those moments in time that last forever in our collective imagination and reminds us that this often maligned town was once one of America’s greatest. Captivating, engaging. You won’t put it down.”
-Craig J. Heimbuch, Author "Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry"

“Incorporating Truman Capote-like details about the Sheppard case...and a play-by-play recounting of each World Series game, Knight captures a sense of misery and drea with which all Clevelanders can identify."
-Cleveland Magazine

“Knight continues his knack for impeccable research, having dug deep to take the reader back to a different time...”
-Lorain Morning Journal

“Jonathan Knight seems to have a handle on the rise and fall of Cleveland...”
-Northwest Ohio History

“A page-turning tale of sports, crime, and a city’s history...”
-Ohioana Quarterly

“It blends three major stories into one fine tale for readers.”
-Westlake West Life

“Jonathan Knight’s new book...pulls the veil back on the city’s once-great heritage.”

"Knight’s Summer of Shadows gives us plenty of bright summer and then patiently and respectfully shows us that the shadows were there all along. He’s not a naysayer or a spoilsport. After all, he’s just as much an optimistic Ohioan as the rest of us."
-Ohioana Quarterly


By the time Sam was finished at the hospital, it was past eight, and he returned home just in time for dinner. As the food was being placed on the table, the Indians grabbed an early lead on a first-inning sacrifice fly by Al Rosen. And with Art Houttemann cruising, it appeared the tone had been set for a third straight Cleveland triumph over the White Sox. As the Aherns and Sheppards sat down to eat, Larry Doby blasted his fourteenth home run of the year to make it 2-0 in the third.

Marilyn’s dinner was perfect. While the children ate inside, the adults gathered on the screened-in porch overlooking the lake, where they enjoyed cottage ham, tossed salad, string beans, applesauce, and potatoes as the sun went down, laying a long golden track across the water. A breeze sashayed up the beach and brought with it a surprising coolness for a mid-summer night. At one point, Sam got up from the table to put a brown corduroy sport coat on over his t-shirt to stay warm. For dessert, Marilyn brought out her blueberry pie, Sam’s favorite.

As they finished dinner and the women cleared the dishes, the Ahern boys returned home and the Indians’ cruise to victory hit rough waters. Back-to-back home runs by Nellie Fox and Minnie Minoso in the sixth gave Chicago a 3-2 lead. White Sox pitcher Sandy Consuerga, in the middle of the only All-Star season of his career, hit his stride and pitched four consecutive scoreless innings.

As Consuerga mowed down the Indians, the peculiar flavor of the day once again intruded. Up in the stands, forty-four-year-old Joseph Knable, a used-car dealer from Youngstown, felt a tightening sensation in his chest. His wife, Bessie, helped him to the stadium’s first-aid room, but they discovered that the doctor had already left for the night and the on-duty nurse was intoxicated. As her husband’s condition worsened, Mrs. Knable notified a police officer, and Joseph was transported by ambulance to Lutheran Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival. Two months later, the grieving widow would sue the Indians for $100,000.

Still, the majesty of the evening persevered. In Edgewater Park, located perfectly in between the game and the dinner party, a crowd of better than 125,000 gathered for the Festival of Freedom fireworks display, a thirty-five-minute show that launched at 9:30. The rockets pained the night sky, the bright colors reflecting beautifully in the lake below. Back in Bay Village, several residents of Lake Road stepped out onto the beach, where they could enjoy an ideal view of the sulfuric sensations just a few miles away.

After the dinner dishes had been cleared and the fireworks had ceased, Marilyn took young Chip upstairs to his room. They said Chip’s evening prayers together, and then she tucked him into bed. Downstairs, Don Ahern flipped on a portable radio and sat in a corner, listening to the Indians game. Marilyn returned and joined the others in the living room, turning on the television to watch a movie on Channel 3. Written and directed by longtime suspense radio icon Arch Obler, Strange Holiday was the story of a man, played by Claude Raines, who returns from a camping trip to discover that the United States was now operating under a dictatorship, having been taken over by fascists. He’s thrown in prison while trying to understand this new world. The scenario did not seem at all ironic to the Sheppards or the Aherns on the night of July 3.

Four outs away from defeat, the Indians found new life when Wally Westlake blasted a home run in the eighth to tie the game. Don Ahern excitedly shared the news with the others, but they were more interested in the movie. At the end of a long, busy day, Sam kept nodding off in a large overstuffed chair. At one point Marilyn nudged him and told him to wake up and pay attention - they were just getting to the good part. Sam sat up as Marilyn moved over to him. She sat on his lap and they snuggled together, looking like the young, happy couple everyone assumed they were. Smiling, Nancy Ahern called her husband over to her and they also nestled. “You’re not the only ones who can be loving,” Nancy said teasingly.

Thirteen miles to the east, Don Mossi got the Indians through the ninth, and the game spilled into extra innings. Hal Newhouser took over in the tenth and began a pitching duel with Chicago reliever Jack Harshman. After the White Sox got a runner to second with two out in the tenth, neither team threatened to score over the next four innings as the game toiled endlessly into the night. Finally, in the fifteenth inning, the White Sox broke the stalemate on a two-out RBI single by Johnny Groth. With clocks now inching past midnight, the Indians marked the arrival of Independence Day with a rally. Doby opened the bottom of the fifteenth with a walk, followed by a single to left by Rosen. Pinch-hitter Sam Dente laid a perfect bunt down the third-base line that Minoso couldn’t get to in time and the bases were loaded. Al Lopez then called on another pinch-hitter, Hank Majeski, who rifled a base hit to left on the first pitch to score Doby and Rosen and end the four-hour marathon. The Indians had won, 5-4, their twenty-eighth come-from-behind win of the season, and with a game still to play Sunday, they had secured a victory in one of the biggest series of the year.

Don Ahern flipped the radio off and, seeing both Marilyn dozing in the overstuffed chair and Sam asleep on the daybed near the staircase, he and Nancy tried to slip out without waking them. Nancy closed and bolted the door to the back porch. But on their way out the front door, Marilyn got up to see them out, thanking them for a wonderful evening. Sam, a deep sleeper, didn’t move. Marilyn said good-bye and closed the door after the Aherns left. Nancy didn’t notice whether or not Marilyn locked the door behind them.

As the Indians returned to the clubhouse triumphant after yet another satisfying victory, Marilyn Sheppard turned off all the lights on the first floor and began her way up to bed. Sam Sheppard would vaguely remember her gently shaking him on the daybed and telling him she was going upstairs.

He would never see her alive again.

Copyright 2014