Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#99 - Del Crandall/Brewers Field Leaders

Here is Del Crandall, Milwaukee manager in about the middle of his stay with the Brewers. '73 would be a year of drama for him and his team. The perceived ace of the staff, Tom Parsons, pretty much crashed and burned from day one. New third baseman Don Money was having a tough time with AL pitching. But led by the hitting of George Scott and Dave May, the pitching of Jim Colborn, and improved infield defense, the Brewers would win ten in a row and knock Detroit out of first place in mid-June. They would retain that position for about a week. It was the latest in a season they were in first. Then the pitching coach quit over the whole Parsons issue and the team cooled off a bit but it was still a .500 ballclub in late August, a first for the franchise as well. By then Money was on a roughly .300 roll and in the end the club finished 74-88, its best record through that year. Crandall would improve on that record by a couple games in '74 and manage the Brewers through the following year.

Del Crandall was an old Milwaukee man, having been signed by the Boston Braves in '48. A catcher, he showed some power in the low minors and was up top by the middle of the next season where his .263 average and 52% pick-off rate helped him finish second in the '49 ROY race. A slow start in '50 was then followed two-plus years in the military. By the time Del returned in '53 the team had relocated to Milwaukee where by mid-season Del was the regular catcher which he would remain through the '62 season (he missed nearly all of '61 due to injury). During that time he would average 125 games with 18 homers and 60 RBI's per season while healthy. He was an excellent handler of pitchers and would be named to eight All-Star teams. He stayed with the Braves through '63 then played his remaining career with the Giants ('64), Pittsburgh ('65), and Cleveland ('66). He finished with a .254 average, 179 homers, and 657 RBIs, and won four Gold Gloves.In the post-season he hit .227 with a couple homers and four RBI's in 13 games, winning one ring.

Del moved into coaching pretty quickly and by '69 was managing in the LA chain at Albuquerque where he would stay through '70 and return to from '78 to '83. In between he moved to the Brewers system, first at Evansville from '71 to '72, then to Milwaukee from '72 to '75. After managing and coaching in the Angels' system he went back to LA's. He then returned to the majors to manage the Mariners from '83 to '84. His managerial record up top was 364-469 and in the minors 942-700. In '85 he started a career as a broadcaster and worked in that position for the White Sox through '88 and did the same for the Brewers from '92 to '94. From '95 to '97 he returned to manage in the LA system at San Bernardino. He is now retired. Del has a SABR page

These guys are all pretty young, the oldest being 49 at the time of this set. Let's see who they are:

Harvey Kuenn was discussed on the Detroit team post. I can add some color here, courtesy of "The Curse of Rocky Colavito." He and Rocky were both holdouts before the '60 season and it was widely believed that even though he hit over .350 in '59 and he was only 29, his legs were toast. But Frank Lane, the Indians GM, loved to trade and so he did. Harvey got hurt a bunch of times in his Cleveland season; one reporter noted on seeing him on opening day in the locker room that he looked way too old to be 30. He got traded after the season. When he managed the Brewers the team was known as Harvey's Wallbangers for the power they put out. The bangers included Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, and Robin Yount. He had a nice run in Milwaukee and was probably let go too soon.

Joe Nossek was signed by the Twins out of Ohio University, where he was an All-American outfielder in '61. An outfielder/third baseman, he put up some decent averages while moving up the chain the next couple seasons until a .238 in Triple A in '64 stalled things a bit. Still, he came up in the middle of '65, saw some reserve duty, and then started in that year's Series, hitting .200. He went to the A's early in the '66 season and there did more reserve work the next two years. In '68 he went to Triple A where his average was light. He was traded to the Cards in '69 but rarely played and spent the bulk of that season in the minors where he hit .338. He then put up a couple more light-hitting minor league seasons, finishing things up in the Brewers chain. He hit .228 for his MLB career and .263 in the minors and then segued right into coaching. After a season managing at Danville for the Brewers he came up to coach for them from '73 to '75. He then coached for the Twins ('76), Cleveland ('77 to '81), KC ('82-'83), and the White Sox ('84 to '86 and '90-2003). His specialty was coaching outfielders and he was very adept at stealing signs. Since 2004 he has been scouting for the Astros. His record as a manager is 73-52.

Jim Walton was an infielder signed by Baltimore in '54. He was traded to Washington in '55 and then went to the service the next three seasons. When he returned in '59 he was in the Reds' system. A third baseman, he couldn't get out of D ball due to a light average - around .200 by then - and in 1960 he gave pitching a shot. In '62 he was drafted by the Colt .45s as a player/manager. He never really got close to the majors as a player and finished with a .232 average - ironically he hit much better as a pitcher - and a 3-6 record with a high ERA on the hill.. He managed in the Astros chain at Moultrie for the '62 and '63 seasons where he went 106-128 and then scouted for Houston through '71. He then managed for the Brewers at San Antonio before joining the major coaching staff from '73 to '76. Since then he has scouted for the Major Leagues. He has also been an advance scout for the USA baseball team.

Al Widmar was signed by the Red Sox in '42 and started his career well enough but couldn't keep his ERA under 4.00. He made it to Boston in '48 and also played for the Browns from '50 to '51 and the White Sox in '52. He went to St. Louis in the trade that bought the Red Sox Vern Stephens. He did put up some nice numbers in the minors and from '49 to '53 won 20 games there three times. His minor league career lasted through '58 and he finished with a lifetime record of 169-130 with a 3.53 ERA. In the majors he was 13-30 with a 5.21 ERA, twelve complete games, a shutout, and six saves. Like the rest of these guys he pretty much jumped right into coaching, managing in the Phillies chain from '56 to '58, his last years as a player. He then moved back and forth between the majors and the minors in coaching stints for Philly through the '69 season. In '71 and '72 he managed in the Brewers system and then coached on top from '73 to '74. Al had to come up mid-season in '73 after the prior pitching coach quit. He then scouted for Milwaukee through '77. The next two years he coached in the Baltimore system. In 1980 he became a Toronto coach where he stayed throughout the '80s. In 1990 he moved into an admin role with the team. During his time as a pitching coach he was credited with the development of Chris Short, Rick Wise, Jimmy Key, and Dave Stieb, among others. As a manager he went 320-315. He retired from his admin role with Toronto in 2000 and settled in Oklahoma where he passed away in 2005 from colon cancer. Al was 80.

Time for one of those double exercises. First for Crandall the manager:

1. Crandall managed Johnny Briggs on the '72 to '75 Brewers;
2. Briggs and Bert Blyleven '75 Twins.

And now as Crandall the player. His age should help keep the iterations low:

1. Crandall and Willie Stargell '65 Pirates;
2. Stargell and Bert Blyleven '78 to '80 Pirates.

I'm getting a lot of mileage out of Willie.

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