Elijah ‘Lucky’ Miller passes at 104

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Elijah Daniel “Lucky” Miller was such a fixture at Homestead’s Second Baptist Church, it is doubtful anyone will surpass his 65-year attendance record. He was remembered there in a home going ceremony Oct. 18. Miller passed away Oct. 12 at West Penn Hospital’s Forbes Hospice. He was 104.

In 1926 he moved from his native Virginia to work at U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works. Until his death, he was still collecting a pension.

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ELIJAH MILLER

“If they’d known I was going to live this long, they’d have cut my head off and gave it to the chickens,” he joked during a 2002 interview with the New Pittsburgh Courier.

Miller worked in the chimney yard, which he said paid more money than a lot of mill jobs, but there was a reason for that—noise.

“The doctor told me to get out there because with all the hammering and noise, I’d go deaf,” he said. “So I drove a truck after that, hauling the dolomite around the mill to clean out the furnaces.”

Though some knew Miller was U.S. Steel’s longest surviving pensioner, most knew him as the last person directly associated with the greatest team in Negro League baseball history—the Homestead Grays. He was their back-up batboy.

Featuring legendary players like Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell, Buck Leonard and Satchel Paige, the Grays dominated Negro League baseball for nearly 50 years. And between 1935 and 1947, they won every championship series played.

“I was there when Satchel Paige told the outfielders to sit down because no balls were coming out there, then struck out the side,” Miller said. “And at the Grays’ field over on West Run Road, I saw Josh (Gibson) hit one that went over the mill and into the river—550 feet.”

But Miller wasn’t just remembered locally. In 2003, when John “Buck” O’Neil, the legendary former Kansas City Monarch’s first baseman and coach and chairman of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum visited the Hill District for the first time in 60 years, before signing a single autograph, he wanted to see “Lucky.”

Asking, “Where’s the old man,” the (then) 91-year-old O’Neil made his way through the crowded lobby at One Hope Square to find Miller.

“Lucky Miller,” O’Neil shouted as he sat down. “The last time I saw you was at the Crawford Grill, with Satchel (Paige) sitting on one end of the bar and Josh (Gibson) on the other.”

Following the service, Miller was interred at Homewood Cemetery.

Miller is survived by his children Annie J. Reeves (Bill), Ruth L. Hines (Joseph) and Daniel E. “Billy” Miller, 10 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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