Del Crandall

Delmar Wesley Crandall (March 5, 1930  May 5, 2021) was an American professional baseball player and manager. He was born in Ontario, California.[1] Crandall played as a catcher in Major League Baseball and spent most of his career with the Boston / Milwaukee Braves.[1][2] He led the league in assists a record-tying six times, in fielding percentage four times and in putouts three times.[1][3][4] Crandall was the last living player to have played for the Boston Braves.[5]

Del Crandall
Crandall in 1955.
Catcher / Manager
Born: March 5, 1930
Ontario, California, U.S.
Died: May 5, 2021(2021-05-05) (aged 91)
Mission Viejo, California, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
June 17, 1949, for the Boston Braves
Last MLB appearance
September 14, 1966, for the Cleveland Indians
MLB statistics
Batting average.254
Home runs179
Runs batted in657
Managerial record364–469
Winning %.437
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards

Early life

Crandall was born in Ontario, California, on March 5, 1930.[6] He was the second of three children of Richard and Nancy Crandall, who were both employed in the citrus-packaging industry.[7] He was raised in Fullerton and attended Fullerton Union High School.[6] Crandall played catcher for the school team and for the local American Legion Baseball team.[7] He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Boston Braves before the 1948 season.[6]

Professional career

Playing career (1949–1966)

Crandall played less than two seasons in the minor leagues from 1948 to 1949.[8] He made his MLB debut on June 17, 1949, at the age of 19,[6] entering as a pinch runner in the final inning of a 7–2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.[9] Crandall appeared in 146 games for Boston in 1949-1950,[6] before entering military service during the Korean War. When his two-year hitch was over in March 1953, the Braves departed Boston for Milwaukee, where they benefited from an offense featuring Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Joe Adcock. Crandall seized the regular catcher's job from Walker Cooper in 1953 and held it for eight years, handling Braves pitchers such as left-hander Warren Spahn and right-handers Lew Burdette and Bob Buhl.[7][10] From 1953 to 1959, the Braves' pitching staff finished either first or second in the National League in team earned run average every year except 1955. Burdette credited Crandall for some of his success, saying, "I never- well hardly ever- have to shake him off. He knows the job like no one else, and you can have faith in his judgment".[11] On September 11, 1955, with the Braves trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 with two outs and a 3-2 count in the ninth inning, Crandall hit a grand slam home run to win the game.[12] The Braves won National League pennants in 1957 and 1958,[13][14] also finishing in second place five times between 1953 and 1960, and captured the 1957 World Series championship the franchise's first title since 1914.[15] Although he batted .211 in the 1957 Series against the New York Yankees, Crandall had a solo home run for the Braves' last tally in a 5-0 win in the deciding Game 7.[16][17]

Though rarely among the league leaders in offensive categories, he finished 10th in the 1958 Most Valuable Player Award voting after hitting .272, tying his best mark to that point, with career highs in doubles and walks;[18] Crandall also led the league in putouts, assists and fielding average, and won his first Gold Glove. In the 1958 World Series, again against the Yankees, he hit .240; he slugged another Game 7 solo home run, tying the score 2-2 in the sixth inning, though the Yankees went on to score four more runs to win the game and the Series.[16][19]

Crandall averaged 125 games caught during the peak of his career, but missed most of the 1961 season due to shoulder trouble,[20] which gave Joe Torre his opportunity to break in. While Crandall did come back to catch 90 games in 1962 — hitting a career-high .297, making his final National League All-Star squad and winning his last Gold Glove — he was soon replaced by Torre as the Braves' regular catcher. In 1962, Crandall also moved ahead of Roy Campanella, setting the National League record for career fielding percentage; however, Johnny Roseboro would edge ahead of him before his career ended. After 1963, Crandall was traded by the Braves to the San Francisco Giants in a seven-player deal;[6] he played a backup role in his final three major league seasons with the Giants (1964), Pittsburgh Pirates (1965), and Cleveland Indians (1966).[7]

Career statistics

In 1,573 games over 16 seasons, Crandall finished with a batting average of .254 with 179 home runs; his 175 HRs in the National League trailed only Campanella (242), Gabby Hartnett (236) and Ernie Lombardi (190) among the league's catchers. His 1,430 games caught in the National League trailed only Al López, Hartnett and Lombardi. Crandall won four of the first five Gold Glove Awards given to a National League catcher, and tied another record by catching three no-hitters.[21][22] He retired with the fourth most home runs by a National League catcher, and his career .404 slugging average also placed him among the league's top ten receivers. Crandall ended his career among the major league career leaders in putouts (4th, 7352), total chances (8th, 8200) and fielding percentage (5th, .989) behind the plate, and ranked fourth in National League history in games caught. Crandall was a superb defensive player with a strong arm; he threw out 45.44% of the base runners who tried to steal a base on him, ranking him 8th on the all-time list.[23] He was selected as an All-Star eight times during his career: 1953–1956, 1958–1960, 1962.[1] A powerful right-handed hitter, Crandall topped the 20 home run mark three times.[1] After having caught Jim Wilson's no-hitter on June 12, 1954, he added another pair in 1960 — by Burdette on August 18, and by Spahn a month later on September 16;[24][25][26] all three were against the Philadelphia Phillies. Richard Kendall of the Society for American Baseball Research devised an unscientific study that ranked Crandall as the fourth most dominating fielding catcher in major league history.[27] The youngest battery to play in the Major Leagues was the Boston Braves battery of Del Crandell catching and Johnny Antonnelli pitching, both were 19 years old at the time. Crandell's first Major League game with the Boston Braves was attended by his mother and father who traveled from CA to Boston only to see their son get ejected from the game for arguing with an umpire.

Crandall and pitcher Warren Spahn started 316 games as a battery, which was passed by Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan (who pitched together from 1963 to 1975). Currently. The Spahn-Crandall battery currently ranks as the third best in games played together of any such duo since 1900.[28]

Managing and broadcasting career (1972–1997)

Crandall eventually turned to managing, and piloted two American League clubs, the Milwaukee Brewers (1972–75) and the Seattle Mariners (1983–84).[29] In each case he was hired to try to right a losing team in mid-season, but he never enjoyed a winning campaign with either team and finished with a managing record of 364–469 (.437). In between those American League stints, he was a highly successful manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers' top farm club, the Albuquerque Dukes of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, and also managed the Class A San Bernardino Stampede from 1995 to 1997.[30] He remained in the Dodger organization as a special catching instructor well into his 60s. He also worked as a sports announcer with the Chicago White Sox radio team from 1985 through 1988 and with the Brewers from 1992 to 1994.[20] From August 2020 until his death, Crandall was the last living Boston Brave, following the death of Bert Thiel on July 31.[31]

Personal life

Crandall married Frances Sorrells in 1951, one day before he reported for military service. Together, they had six children who survived him: Lynn (McAlpine), Del Jr., Jeff, Bob, Tim, and Bill,[32] in addition to Ronnie, who died when he was 7 years old from complications of cerebral palsy.[33] The family relocated to Brookfield, Wisconsin, in 1959.[7] Crandall died on May 5, 2021,[34] at his home in Mission Viejo, California.[35][36] He was 91, and had Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and suffered several strokes prior to his death.[36]


  1. Del Crandall at Baseball Reference
  2. "Del Crandall at Baseball Almanac". Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  3. Fielding Leaders, Baseball Digest, July 2001, Vol. 60, No. 7, ISSN 0005-609X
  4. Del Crandal in Baseball Digest, August 1999, Vol. 58, No. 8, ISSN 0005-609X
  5. Nick Diunte. "Bert Thiel, One Of Two Remaining Boston Braves, Dies At 94". Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  6. "Del Crandall Statistics and History". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  7. Dunn, Geoffrey. "Del Crandall". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  8. "Del Crandall Minor League Statistics and History". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  9. "June 17, 1949 Boston Braves at Cincinnati Reds Play by Play and Box Score". Sports Reference LLC. June 17, 1949. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  10. Orange-Topped Catcher, by Charles Dexter, Baseball Digest, August 1953, Vol. 12, No. 8, ISSN 0005-609X
  11. The Nitro-glistenin' Kid by Al Jonas, Baseball Digest, pp 9, May 1954, Vol. 13, No. 4, ISSN 0005-609X
  12. "September 11, 1955 Phillies-Braves box score at Retrosheet". September 11, 1955. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  13. 1957 National League Team Statistics and Standings at Baseball Reference
  14. 1958 National League Team Statistics and Standings at Baseball Reference
  15. 1957 World Series at Baseball Reference
  16. Del Crandall post-season statistics at Baseball Reference
  17. 1957 World Series Game 7 box score at Baseball Reference
  18. 1958 Most Valuable Player Award voting results at Baseball Reference
  19. 1958 World Series Game 7 box score at Baseball Reference
  20. Del Crandall -
  21. National League Gold Glove Award winners at Baseball Reference
  22. "No-hitters caught at The Encyclopedia of Catchers". Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  23. "100 Best Catcher CS% Totals at The Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers" (PDF). Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  24. June 12, 1954 Phillies-Braves box score at Baseball Reference
  25. August 18, 1960 Phillies-Braves box score at Baseball Reference
  26. September 16, 1960 Phillies-Braves box score at Baseball Reference
  27. "Dominating Fielding Catchers at The Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers". Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  28. Silver, Zachary (February 9, 2021). "'This is my home': Molina ready to chase title". Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  29. Del Crandall Major League manager statistics at Baseball Reference
  30. Del Crandall Minor league manager statistics at Baseball Reference
  31. Bert Thiel — Swedburg Funeral Home
  32. Goldstein, Richard (May 8, 2021). "Del Crandall, All-Star Catcher With Champion Braves, Dies at 91". The New York Times. p. B11. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  33. Gazdziak, Sam. "Obituary: Del Crandall (1930-2021)". RIP Baseball. May 8, 2021. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  34. "Former Brewers manager and Braves star Del Crandall dies at age 91". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. May 6, 2021. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  35. "Del Crandall, star Braves catcher and ex-manager, dies at 91". Associated Press. May 6, 2021. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  36. McCalvy, Adam (May 6, 2021). "Former skipper Del Crandall dies at 91". MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
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