Memorial Honors Roger Craig Whose Baseball Profession Spanned Generations


On the perimeter of a quiet golf course within the foothills exterior San Diego, music from the Highwaymen galloped from the sound system. Household and baseball, inextricably intertwined, had gathered to say one remaining goodbye to Roger Craig. Horses and golf, two different staples on this North Carolina nation boy’s life, gracefully stuffed the inexperienced pastures and dusty trails of the creativeness because the songs rang out.

I used to be a highwayman
Alongside the coach roads, I did trip

Craig was 93 when he died this month. He was married to his beloved Carolyn for 71 of these years. And at a memorial on Saturday stuffed with laughter, tears and the sort of candy and humorous tales that, fortunately, outlive eras, Craig’s legacy gleamed because the central cog of a gaggle of three males who collectively spanned the previous 111 years of Main League Baseball.

Craig had been the beginning pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ remaining sport in 1957 after which was the starter for the Mets within the growth franchise’s first sport in 1962. His supervisor with the Mets, the ineffable Casey Stengel, made his debut with Brooklyn in 1912. Craig, who went on to success as each a pitching coach and a supervisor, was a mentor for, amongst others, Bob Melvin, the present supervisor of the San Diego Padres.

“I wouldn’t be managing as we speak had I not performed for him,” Melvin, who was a catcher beneath Craig for 3 seasons, stated over the weekend as he led his Padres in opposition to Tampa Bay. “Roger pressured me to observe the sport as a supervisor.”

From 1912 to 2023, Stengel to Craig to Melvin. Possibly it doesn’t pack the literary punch of, say, “Tinker to Evers to Likelihood,” the well-known line from the poem “Baseball’s Unhappy Lexicon.” However there’s an plain richness within the hardball relay.

“Can I get a ‘Humm child!’ from everyone?” Mark Grant, the previous Giants pitcher and present Padres tv analyst, requested at first of his remarks through the memorial. The congregation on the outside ceremony loudly obliged, shouting, “Humm child,” Craig’s joyful and common go-to phrase, which served as an exhortation, an exclamation and a descriptor. It was applicable, and inspired, for all events.

Craig was a teammate and a husband, a father and a instructor. He excelled in split-fingered fastballs and relationships. With laconic grace, he simply defused stress and disarmed tightly wired gamers.

“He meant the world to me,” stated Alan Trammell, the Corridor of Fame shortstop who was one of many afternoon’s audio system.

Trammell was in Detroit for all 5 of Craig’s seasons because the pitching coach for Sparky Anderson — a run that culminated with the Tigers’ 1984 World Collection title. The easygoing Trammell was appreciated by Craig when Jack Morris, one other Corridor of Famer, was pitching.

Morris, whose profession took off when Craig taught him the splitter, ran scorching on the mound. When issues acquired tight, Anderson would ship Craig out to dispense phrases of knowledge. Craig dutifully obeyed, understanding the volcanic Morris needed no a part of it. So the pitching coach typically would merely chat with Trammell as an alternative, utterly ignoring Morris. Ultimately, Morris would lose endurance and get them organized off his mound.

Craig would return to the dugout, guarantee Sparky that his ace was good and the sport would proceed.

That sort of character was cast by many battles received, and various that have been misplaced. As a member of the growth Mets employees, Craig went 10-24 in 1962, main the majors in losses. Then he led the majors with one other 22 losses in 1963.

Throughout a day with Craig and his spouse at their San Diego condominium a decade in the past, Roger and I mentioned that, and he grinned. Writers would nonetheless name, he stated, and ask him whether or not he was “ashamed” of his file with the Mets. He would fortunately level out that he had thrown 27 full video games over these two seasons.

His main league debut had come beneath happier circumstances again in 1955, when Brooklyn known as him up from Class AAA Montreal for a spot begin. He did so properly, throwing a complete-game three-hitter in opposition to Cincinnati, that Supervisor Walter Alston advised him to take a few days and transfer his household from Montreal to Brooklyn. Studying the uncertainty on Craig’s face, a veteran teammate provided, “Come on, child, I’ll offer you a trip to the airport.”

It was Jackie Robinson.

“It was my first day within the large leagues,” Craig stated. “And Jackie Robinson is taking me to the airport.

“He by no means stated one phrase about what he went by means of. And I noticed a number of it. He simply advised me, ‘Child, you’re going to be an awesome pitcher.’”

That autumn, Craig was the profitable pitcher in Recreation 5 of the World Collection because the Dodgers defeated the Yankees in seven video games for his or her solely championship in New York.

After seven seasons with the Dodgers, which included the crew’s transfer to Los Angeles, Craig was thrust right into a far totally different scenario. The Mets, figuring a well-recognized face would assist promote tickets in New York, made a calculated determination to pick out him with the sixth choose within the growth draft.

He was 32 by then, and Stengel delighted in calling him MISTER Craig. He was, in spite of everything, the elder statesman in a rotation of twenty-somethings. Because the Mets set a contemporary file for futility by ending 40-120, Stengel would typically ask Craig to skip his between-starts throwing session.

“MISTER Craig,” Stengel would say. “I do know you pitched 9 innings as we speak and received’t pitch once more for 4 days, however don’t throw between begins simply in case we’re forward. I may have you to pitch an inning or two in aid.”

A half-century later, Craig was nonetheless laughing. On these uncommon events when the Mets have been profitable? Certain sufficient, Stengel would lean ahead and look down the bench till he caught Craig’s eye. And Craig would start to heat up. He began 33 video games that season, and relieved in 9 others.

One evening in New York, throughout these dropping years with the Mets, Craig ran into the outdated proprietor, Invoice Veeck, who advised him that, in spite of everything he had gone by means of, he would make a superb pitching coach or supervisor at some point.

“He was proper,” Craig stated. “I by no means forgot that. Each time I’d see him after that, I’d thank him. You be taught a lot from dropping. Since you preserve considering, ‘How can we repair that?’”

Following his profitable stint as a pitching coach, Craig was named supervisor of the Giants, a crew that had gone 62-100 in 1985. Mr. Repair-It turned them into N.L. West champions in 1987, with a file of 90-72. Two years later, Craig led the crew to its second pennant in San Francisco.

Craig, who earned three World Collection rings as a participant (1955 and 1959 Dodgers, 1964 Cardinals) and one as a pitching coach (1984 Tigers), was nonetheless prepared for motion when one other of his former catchers, Bob Brenly, got here calling in 2001.

Brenly, who was managing the Arizona Diamondbacks, invited Craig to camp that spring as a visitor coach and, after the Diamondbacks had defeated the Yankees within the World Collection, requested Craig for his ring dimension. The supervisor advised his outdated mentor that he had talked the crew’s proprietor into giving Craig a hoop.

“It’s not a lot for what you probably did final yr,” Brenly advised Craig. “It’s for what you probably did for me as a participant, coach and supervisor.”

Later, Melvin, who was on that Diamondbacks employees, advised Craig a distinct story: “I’m not purported to inform you this, however Bob paid for that ring himself.”

At Petco Park over the weekend, Melvin smiled and nodded when the story was recounted.

“That’s how a lot Roger meant to him,” Melvin stated. “And I felt he ought to know that.”

Familial ties have been ever-present for Craig, each inside and outdoors the clubhouse. He and Carolyn raised 4 youngsters, who gave them seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. One of many granddaughters, Chelsea Willingham, closed Saturday’s service with a scripture studying, Psalm 23, and a candy request.

“Within the spirit of Humm Child, please hum alongside as I sing ‘Wonderful Grace,’” she stated. The refrain was quick, and sturdy, as hearts soared and horses performed and, someplace, in all probability, Stengel was asking Craig to heat up. Simply in case.


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