Two baseball writers speculate on why more baseball writers didn’t know about George Crowe’s death. The reason is simple, though his major league accomplishments were huge, Crowe played a much more important role in basketball.
A common thread in their well-written pieces is that they speculate on why more baseball writers didn’t know of his death.
The main reason is that, although his major league accomplishments were outstanding, Crowe played a much more significant role in basketball.
He was Indiana’s first Mr. Basketball, and he was the last surviving member of the New York Renaissance Big Five.
So, basketball writers were quicker to respond.
Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star nailed it, noting, “George Crowe’s place in history was cemented when he won the first Indianapolis Star Indiana Mr. Basketball honor while playing for Franklin High School in 1939.”
Being the first and the last, well, that cannot change. Anything that’s in between those two extremes is merely fleeting to most news media — even astonishing feats like being named as a National League All Star, and once holding the major league record for most pinch hit home runs.
What is nice above all else is the genuine outpouring and acknowledgement now, for Crowe’s exceptional achievements in both sports.
From his “It’s a Madd, Madd World…” Column
Saturday, January 22nd 2011, 6:06 PM
Last Tuesday, George Crowe, a first baseman and pinch hitter extraordinaire with the Braves, Reds and Cardinals and an All-Star in 1957, died in an assisted-living home near Sacramento, Calif., at age 89. He deserved more than a one-line note in the sports briefs because, as his ’59-’61 Cardinals teammates, Bill White and Bob Gibson, will attest, Crowe was their behind-the-scenes spiritual leader in getting the segregation barriers torn down in St. Petersburg spring training. “George was a helluva man,” White said by phone from Ocala, Fla. “He was extremely helpful to young guys like myself, Gibson and Curt Flood when we decided we’d had enough. He was a very wise fellow who’d been through it all and, in the background, he led us in the integration movement in Florida before the Civil Rights Act.”
by Bruce Markusen for The Hardball Times
January 28, 2011
Some players are just destined to be overlooked. Consider the case of George Crowe. The former Negro Leagues and National League first baseman died on Jan. 18, at the age of 89, yet there was nary a mention from most Internet baseball sources. I first learned about his passing while reading Bill Madden’s Sunday column in the New York Daily News. A few other newspapers covered the story, including the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News, but for the most part the coverage seemed so shallow and incomplete. Though hardly a household name, George Crowe deserved better, even if the lack of attention probably wouldn’t have bothered him in the slightest.
Who exactly was George Crowe, you might ask? A left-handed hitting first baseman with power, he was baseball’s original “Big Daddy,” given the nickname long before Rick Reuschel, Cecil Fielder and (among today’s players) Cardinals star Matt Holliday. Crowe was also known as “Big George.” Either nickname described him well. He was 6-foot-2 l and weighed 215 pounds during his career, dimensions that might not sound overly large today, in the modern era of weight lifting, steroids and HGH, but were certainly well above average for ballplayers in the 1950s and ’60s.
As a ballplayer, Crowe was not a star, not a dominant player in either the Negro Leagues or the big leagues, but a solid ballplayer who enjoyed one season of glory with the Reds in the mid-1950s. As an amateur, he was actually a better performer at basketball. In fact, he was such a standout that he was named the first “Mr. Basketball” in Indiana state history.
Crowe eventually turned his hardwood skills into a professional basketball career, but only after a tour of duty with the Army during World War II. Upon his discharge in 1946, Crowe joined an integrated basketball team known as the Los Angeles Red Devils, where he became a teammate of Jackie Robinson. Crowe played so well for the Red Devils that he drew the interest of the famed barnstorming team, the Harlem Renaissance, also known as the Rens. Crowe remained with the Rens for two seasons, with one of his career highlights coming courtesy of a 19-point game in front of a large throng at Madison Square Garden.