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Former Negro League player receives surprise celebration at Greenwood retirement home

GREENWOOD, Ind. - Even in the late innings of life, it’s possible to find yourself in the middle of your glory days. Ira McKnight found that out first hand on Friday.

60 years ago, Ira McKnight was a catcher for Negro Leagues baseball team Kansas City Monarchs. He played in the Negro Leagues from1952-1960. While Ira never made it to the big leagues, his love for the game never left him.

“A lifetime of memories, yeah,” he said.

Ira now lives at the Greenwood Healthcare Center; and when the staff heard about his baseball past they decided to throw him a surprise celebration for his career.

“We’re all family, so seeing him happy is just the icing on the cake for the building,” activities director Amanda Jones said.

For a few hours, a small party in the dining room of the healthcare center allowed Ira to turn back the clock.

True to form he held court; signed a few autographs, and handed out his baseball card to the few dozen fans that paid him a visit. The GHC staff even supplied plenty of popcorn, pretzels and Cracker Jacks to help set the mood.

Ira was in heaven.

“I was surprised it made me really happy, really happy,” he said.

In the end, Ira says he doesn’t know how much time he has left.  He nonchalantly acknowledged that most of his friends and former teammates had already passed on. But, he says added that fact only made him that much more grateful for a long life and an exciting career playing the game he loved.

“I’m lucky to be living,” he said.