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George Crowe


"Sometime in the next three innings they're going to come to me and make me put on my shoes and go up to bat, and that young man out there is going to throw me a slider inside and I'm going to hit that pitch over the 354 sign."

--George Crowe, two innings before
hitting a pinch hit homer with the
St. Louis Cardinals.

(quoted from "October 1964" by David Halberstam)


Crowe with the New York
Rens basketball team

(www.blackfives.com)

 


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Negro Leaguer of the Month

July, 2008

George Crowe

Born: March 22, 1921 in Whiteland, Indiana
Ht: 6'-4", Wt: 220
Years Played: 1948-61
Batted and threw left
Teams: New York Black Yankees, Major Leagues (Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves)

George Crowe was part of the second wave of Negro Leauers to make it to the Majors, following the initial class of Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Roy Campanella and Satchel Paige.

Crowe grew up in Indiana and attended Indiana Central high school where he earned 12 letters in three sports.

Basketball was probably Crowe's best prep sport as he was named the state's first "Mr. Basketball" in 1939. During the 1939 state championship game against Frankfort, Crowe scored 13 of his team's 22 points in a loss.

Crowe attended and graduated from Indiana Central College (now known as the University of Indianapolis) in the early 1940s, then played professional basketball for seven years with teams such as the Los Angeles Red Devils, New York Renaissance and Harlem Yankees.

Legendary basketball coach Fuzzy Vandivier called the 6'-4" Crowe, "The best money player I have ever seen."

Crowe was scouted by the New York Black Yankees of the Negro National League, and signed the 27-year-old as a pitcher/first baseman.

Crowe batted over .300 for the Black Yanks, and went 2 for 4 in the 1948 East-West Game, scoring twice in a 6-1 East Victory.

Crowe was one of several Negro Leaguers in the '48 classic who would soon be playing in the Majors, as the game also featured Jim Gilliam, Luke Easter, Sam Hairston, Willard Brown, Quincy Trouppe, Minnie Minoso, Joe Black and Artie Wilson.

Crowe, like many other black stars, trimmed a couple years off his age (to make himself more attractive to Major League scouts), and was signed by the Boston Braves in 1949, then spent three years in the Minors before making the Majors at age 29, though he was thought to be only 27. In the Minors, Crowe batted .354 with 106 RBIs with Pawtucket in the New England League in '49, .353 with 122 RBIs with Hartford in the Eastern League in '50, and .339 with 24 homers and 119 for Milwaukee in the American Association in '51.

Crowe's biggest season in the majors was 1957, when he batted .271, with 31 homers and 92 RBIs with the Cincinnati Reds.

Crowe made the All-Star team the next season, making him one of a handful of men to play in the Negro League and Major League All-Star games.

In his last years, with the Cardinals, Crowe was primarily as pinch-hitter, and was one of the best of all-time. Crowe held the record for most pinch-hit homers, 14, until it was broken by Cliff Johnson and Jerry Lynch.

In the book "October 1964," by David Halberstam, the author describes Crowe, wearing slippers in the dugout (to save his aching feet), waiting for his chance to pinch hit.

Crowe was elected to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976.

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