--Jimmie Crutchfield, from "Only the Ball was White."
Leaguer of the Month
William "Jimmie" Crutchfield
"Mighty Mite" from Moberly, Missourii, Jimmie Crutchfield
was an outstanding outfielder with sure hands, great range and a rifle
arm. He also was a good hitter and excellent bunter, usually batting
around the .290 mark.
During his career he was called "the black Lloyd Waner," referring
to the Hall of Fame oufielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Being small in an otherwise large man's game, Crutchfield compensated with hustle, skill and a bubbly personality.
Crutchfield played right field on some of the great Pittsburgh Crawford teams of the 1930s and what many think was the fastest outfield of all time--he shared the Craw's outfield with speedsters Cool Papa Bell and Sam Bankhead. Crutchfield was probably the most underrated Craword, playing in the shadows of Josh Gibson, Bell, Satchel Paige, Judy Johnson and Oscar Charleston.
Crutchfield did stand out, though, during East-West All-Star games. In the 9th inning of the 1934 Classic, Crutchfield caught a fly ball off the bat of Red Parnell, then made a perfect throw home to nail Mule Suttles who had tagged and tried to score. The game-ending double play made Satchel Paige and the East a winner, 1-0.
In the 1935 East-West game, Crutchfield made what some called "the greatest catch ever." In the 8th inning Biz Mackey ripped a long drive into the right-centerfield gap. Crutchfield and centerfielder Bell both chased the ball and at the last moment Crutchfield leaped in the air and caught the ball in his bare hand!
Crutchfield grew up in Moberly, MO and as a teenager played on a team with future Negro League pitching standout Leroy Matlock. The team was managed by Bill Gatewood, a star Negro League pitcher in the early 1900s.
Crutchfield attended college for a short time before being signed by the Crawfords in 1930. He homered in his very first league game.
More than anything, "Crutch" was known for his wonderful personality. More than a few Negro Leaguers have expressed to me how much they loved this gentleman.
After his baseball career, Crutchfield worked for the Post Office and as a bank messenger.