George Crowe

George Crowe.

Peacefully and poetically — at 8:30 p.m. Pacific Time on the eve of the full moon that began today — the life of our friend the former professional basketball and baseball star George D. Crowe, came to an end.

Crowe had been the last living member of the New York Renaissance (a.k.a. “Rens”) professional all-black basketball team, for which he played during the late 1940s. He was 89 years old.

His daughter and a close friend were nearby. Crowe had been under hospice care at a nursing home in Sacramento, California.

His body simply failed him, I am told, after continual deterioration following a series of strokes over the last several years.

The last and only time I had the honor of meeting him in person, in late 2009, Crowe could still get around on his own. We had a memorable discussion that connected our ongoing telephone conversations before and after.

Claude Johnson with George Crowe

Sitting with George Crowe in 2009, during my visit with him at his nursing home in Sacramento, California.

But he had been bedridden since midway through last year, and was no longer keen about taking too many calls.

Yet he remained full of life.

According to his friend, when it became known last December that nothing else could be done for him as far as medications and treatments, Crowe’s “no alcohol” ban was unanimously lifted. It was Christmas Eve.

The pair immediately proceeded to have a taste-testing of the newly launched top-of-the-line Crown Royal Black blended Canadian whiskey while watching a DVD of a performance by Ella Fitzgerald, Crowe’s favorite vocalist.

One is tempted to compare Crowe and his basketball skills with the marketing for the new whiskey — “extra bold in flavor, darker in color and known for legendary smoothness.” He was certainly that, and also “best in class.”

But Crowe was much more.

He had a rich life that was filled with stories and experiences so singular, remarkable, pioneering, and inspirational that they were breathtaking in their impact.

Yet, Crowe was also a man of wisdom and serenity. He was always the right person at the right place at the right time.

I’ve written much about him on this blog, and there is more to come from me and from others because Crowe was there at so many pivotal moments in the annals of basketball as well as baseball.  It’s fun and easy to write about him because his life was like a panorama of sports history.

George D. Crowe, an exceptionally talented athlete and a one-of-a-kind soul, will be dearly missed by the many friends, admirers, and loved ones he leaves behind.