Showing posts with label George Crowe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label George Crowe. Show all posts

Friday, July 9, 2021

Charlie Gorin, University Of Texas Star And Milwaukee Braves Pitcher, Dies At 93

Charlie Gorin, former Milwaukee Braves pitcher from 1954-55, died February 21, 2021 at 93.

Coming out of the University of Texas, Charlie Gorin had a winner’s pedigree. Pitching under the legendary Bibb Falk's guiding eye, the left-hander propelled the Longhorns to consecutive College World Series titles in 1949 and 1950. Gorin continued that streak early in his minor league career; however, he could not translate that success to the major league level.

Gorin, who pitched seven games for the Milwaukee Braves from 1954-55, died February 21, 2021. He was 93.

The Waco, Texas, native enlisted in the Navy during World War II out of high school, delaying the start of his baseball career. After his discharge he enrolled at Texas, using the GI Bill at the urging of one of his Naval mates. He made good with Falk at a spring tryout, and a local legend was born.

The Boston Braves took notice of Gorin after his second CWS championship in 1950 and signed him to a minor league contract at Omaha on the spot. After a short stint at Triple-A Milwaukee, Gorin settled in with their Double-A club in Atlanta and led them to the playoffs with a 7-1 record.

Gorin entered the 1951 season with a fresh start at Milwaukee that eventually led to two championships in the span of a year. The 1951 Milwaukee club ran away with the pennant, showing how Major League Baseball organizations could benefit from having an integrated team. Former Negro Leaguers Bus Clarkson and George Crowe led the offensive charge with respective .343 and .339 batting averages, while starters Ernie Johnson, Bert Thiel, Virgil Jester, Murray Wall and Gorin all posted double-digit victory totals. They then toppled the International League’s Montreal Royals to win the 1951 Junior World Series.

Most pitchers would be exhausted after a long playoff season, but the lure of a paid winter to pitch in Puerto Rico was too much for Gorin to pass up. At the recommendation of teammate Luis Olmo, Gorin headed to winter ball.

“That was the only way to make money,” Gorin said during a 2008 phone interview. “There wasn't big money like now. I was married with two kids; that's how I saved money. They paid our way down with the wife and kids, and they paid room and board. Puerto Rico was a good place to play.”

After faltering early with Mayagüez, Gorin latched on with San Juan after the team owner came to the airport to stop him from going back home. He was determined to make Mayagüez realize its mistake.

Gorin reeled off 12 wins, leading San Juan to the league championship. He pitched two complete-game victories in the playoffs, punching their ticket to the 1952 Caribbean Series. Unfortunately, for Gorin, he couldn’t enjoy the fruit of his labors. A full year of pitching finally caught up with him, his body giving out after epic playoff run. Instead of representing Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series, he was sent home to recover.

“I had a chance to play in the Caribbean Series in 1952, but I had a muscle spasm in my back, and I just couldn't make the pitch,” he said. “They sent me home. I went to the doctor here. I had a chance to rest, and finally I worked out of it.”

 

Fresh off his incredible 1951 campaign, Gorin looked forward to competing for a spot on the Boston Braves. With the Korean War raging on, Uncle Sam had other plans for him that did not include the major leagues.

“I was called back to active duty in the Navy for Korea,” he said. “I went to Pensacola, because I had a degree in physical education. I was an instructor in the Naval school for gymnastics, physical education, swimming, and water survival. I had to stay two years.”

Gorin, like many of his contemporaries including Willie Mays, Don Newcombe and Ted Williams, lost prime years of his major league career to the Korean War. Unlike the aforementioned trio, Gorin could not regain the momentum he had going into his service upon his return to the pros.

The Braves honored his contract, keeping him on the roster for the 1954 and 1955 seasons. He pitched sparingly over the two years, making seven relief appearances for a 0-1 record with a 3.60 ERA.

Gorin continued to play in the minor leagues through 1962, settling into Austin towards the end of his career so he could make the move into teaching and coaching. Luckily, he found an opportunity with his former high school coach who was flexible enough to let him off to play professional baseball.

“In 1959, I was in Austin, and they wanted to send me to Atlanta,” he said. “I said, ‘Keep me in Austin, that's my hometown, they have a AA team and I could make the transition between baseball and teaching school.’ My high school coach was the athletic director here, so when I got here, he got me on as a coach and teacher. Then he let me off to go play ball. One year I went to Mobile, then back to Austin. I was married with two kids, and I needed the extra money. We made more than teachers, that's for sure.”

He wrapped up his baseball career in 1962 and went full-time into education. He coached football and baseball for over 20 years and became an assistant principal at John Reagan High School in Austin. He retired in 1990 and enjoyed playing golf with his family and friends.

Speaking with Gorin in 2008, he was proud of his baseball career; however, he was quick to note the changes he observed over the 60 years since he started.

“Things have changed,” he said. “The young players don't know how nice they have it. … It's a different game, if the ball hits the ground, it gets put out of the game. You wanted that ball that was hit on the ground, so it was rough, and you could do something with it.”


Saturday, January 22, 2011

George Crowe, 89, former Negro League player and major league All-Star

George Crowe, former All-Star first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds passed away Tuesday night in Rancho Cordova, Calif. He was 89. 

Crowe was signed by the Boston Braves in 1949 from the Negro Leagues, where he played with the New York Black Yankees. He tore up every classification from a Class-B to Triple-A, posting averages of .354, .353, .339 and .351 between 1949 and 1952 before being called up to the Braves in 1952. Crowe shared time with first baseman Earl Torgeson his rookie year, batting a respectable .258.


During a 2008 interview that I conducted with Crowe, he shared his theory as to why he didn't get more playing time over Torgeson, who batted a lowly .230. 

"When I was in Boston, Earl Torgeson wasn't that great of a player, but he was high on the totem pole of politics," Crowe said. "The manager was his old roommate. Torgeson and Tommy Holmes roomed together for years. Holmes became the manager. Who do you think is going to play?" 

The following season, Crowe was relegated to pinch-hitting duty, as the Braves, who had now moved to Milwaukee, brought in the powerful Joe Adcock to play Crowe's position. Nineteen fifty-four saw Crowe return to Triple-A, where as a member of the Toledo club, he feasted on the pitching of the American Association, slugging 34 home runs with a .334 average. During that winter, Crowe was a member of the 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers, which many regard as the best winter league team ever. He shared a lineup that included Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Don Zimmer, Bob Thurman, Bus Clarkson and pitchers Ruben Gomez and "Sad" Sam Jones. They ran away with the Caribbean Series title that year with Crowe solidifying the lineup at first base.

Crowe's undeniable talent allowed him to wrestle the first base position from Adcock in 1955, where he hit 15 home runs and batted .281. Finally receiving a chance to play regularly, Crowe took advantage of the opportunity and figured to be in Milwaukee's plans as they started to build a World Series contender. A week before the 1956 season opener, Crowe was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for "Hurricane" Bob Hazle, who figured prominently in the Braves run to the 1957 title. 

It was with Cincinnati where Crowe, at the age of 36 would have his breakout season. An injury to Ted Kluszewski in 1957 opened the door for Crowe to play full time. Appearing in 133 games, Crowe smashed 31 home runs and drove in 92 runs. That placed him 6th and 8th in the National League respectively in both categories.

In the 2008 interview, he discussed the merits of playing full-time. 

"The regular playing time helped," he said. "Wherever I was, I played everyday. It's not the same. There's nothing like playing everyday. If you can get in there once every two weeks, you might have a good day, but it's another week or ten days before you play again. It's hard to keep a sharp edge."

Sadly, he was the only Cincinnati Red player not selected to the All-Star game as part of the infamous ballot stuffing scandal. He was beat out by the legendary Stan Musial. He would receive a degree of retribution the following season when he was selected as a reserve to the 1958 All-Star team after batting over .300 the first half of the season.  

Crowe would play until 1961, finishing his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, serving as a mentor to younger African-American players such as Bob Gibson and Bill White. At the time of his retirement, he held the MLB record with 14 pinch-hit home runs. 

In addition to his lengthy major league baseball career, Crowe was a standout basketball player. He was the first Indiana Mr. Basketball award winner in 1939. He played professionally for the Harlem based New York Rens and the Los Angeles Red Devils, the latter of which included Jackie Robinson. Crowe remembered Robinson as, "a good basketball player."  

Crowe lived in the Adirondacks until five years ago when he moved to California to be closer to his family. After suffering a stroke in late 2008, Crowe resided in an assisted living facility until his death earlier this week.