Roger Craig, who pitched or managed in five World Series games and was a pioneer of the split-finger fastball that changed the pitching world in the 1980s, died Sunday. he was 93 years old.
The San Francisco Giants, the team that Craig managed for eight seasons and led to the National League championship in 1989, announced his death on their website Sunday. According to a Giants spokesperson, the family said Craig had a brief illness.
For some, Craig was a baseball trivia figure. He was the Dodgers’ starting pitcher in their final game before moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and threw the first pitch in Mets history five years later in 1962. He was a loser both times. He lost 24 games and then 22 in his first two seasons with the dreaded Mets, including an 18-game losing streak in 1963. However, there were times when he was supported by a good batting lineup.
Often noted for his resemblance to President Lyndon B. Johnson, the 6-foot-4-inch lanky right-hander Craig pitched in three World Series games with the Dodgers in the 1950s and a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964. bottom. When he coached the Giants to the 1989 National League championship, he begged players to hustle by chanting “Hum baby” and taught pitchers to throw split-finger fastballs.
Craig spread the gospel of Split. It was thrown with the same motion as a traditional fastball, but the pitcher spread his index and middle fingers wide and gripped the baseball parallel to the seam rather than across it, which could confuse the hitter.
“A split finger is simply a fastball that puts extra spin on it and hits so fast in front of the hitter that he doesn’t know where it’s going,” said Craig in 1988 Playboy. explained in an interview with the magazine. “Any pitcher with a brain that wants to play tenaciously wants to learn that.”
As pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers, Craig taught right-hander Jack Morris how to pitch, and he led the team to a World Series victory in 1984 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018..
After leaving the Tigers due to unmet salary demands, Craig taught split-finger fastball to Houston Astros right-hander Mike Scott, who was looking for advice.Scott went Winner of the 1986 National League Cy Young Award. As Scott once said, “God bless Roger Craig.”
“Everybody was throwing that ball,” Mike Scioscia, a Dodgers catcher in the 1980s and then Angels manager, told the Associated Press in 2011. It’s a slider. ”
Roger Lee Craig was born on February 17, 1930 in Durham, North Carolina, one of ten children of John and Mamie Craig. His father was a shoe salesman. He was spotted by a Dodgers part-time scout while pitching in high school, and signed with the team after graduating from North Carolina State University in 1950. After pitching in the Dodgers’ minor league system and serving in the Army, Craig made his Brooklyn debut in July 1955.
He went 5-3 in 21 games, starting 10 of them, and beat the Yankees in Game 5, the only World Series win by a Brooklyn team. He pitched again for the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series, losing in Game 3 of the Yankees’ seven-game winning streak.
A fastball pitcher early in his career, Craig played in cold, damp weather on September 29, 1957 at Connie Mack Stadium in the Philadelphia Phillies for the last time the Dodgers played before their transfer. I had a problem with my arm because I threw it as a starter. to Los Angeles.
Craig returned to the minors for much of 1958 and part of the 1959 season while rehabbing from injury. He never regained his fastball speed, but upon his full return to the Dodgers in 1959, he focused on getting ahead of hitters on the count. That year, he revived his career as a control pitcher and had his best season in the major leagues. The Dodgers won their first pennant in Los Angeles, going 11-5 and leading the National League with four shutouts. He started twice in the World Series against the Chicago White Sox, winning 1-1 and giving the Dodgers a 6-game no-decision win.
Craig threw primarily in relief until he was selected by the Mets with the third overall pick behind catcher Hobby Landris and infielder Elio Chacon in the October 1961 expansion draft. He was the sixth overall pick as the Mets alternated with another new team, Houston, in the draft order.
The Mets traded Craig to the Cardinals before the 1964 season, and in Game 4 of the World Series, St. Louis beat the Yankees in seven games and won in relief. He then pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and Phillies, finishing his career with a 74-98 record.
Craig began teaching the split-finger fastball, a variation of the slow throw called the forkball, while managing the San Diego Padres in 1978 and 1979. Future Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter learned the pitch from Chicago Cubs wandering instructor Fred Martin during his minor league days and used it for several years. Craig didn’t “discover” split fingers, but he proved to be particularly adept at teaching it.
After five years as the Tigers’ coach, Craig took over as Giants manager for the remaining 18 games of the 1985 season and remained with the team for seven more years. The highlight of his tenure was in 1989, when the Giants won the National League pennant for the first time since 1962, but lost to the Oakland Athletics in an earthquake-delayed World Series. He retired after the 1992 season and spent his later years on a ranch in Borrego Springs, Southern California.
The split-finger fastball remained part of a pitcher’s arsenal in the years after Craig’s retirement, but it gradually fell out of favor over concerns that it could put undue stress on a pitcher’s arm.
“We have lost a legendary member of the Giants family,” Giants chief executive Larry Baer said in a statement. “Roger was beloved by players, coaches, front office staff and fans. It gave us some of the season that will go on.”
He is survived by his wife, Carolyn. He has three daughters, Shelly Paschelke, Teresa Humbey and Vicky Duncan. son, Roger Jr. 7 grandchildren. And there are 14 great-grandchildren, said the Giants.
Reflecting on his career, Craig has spoken of bitter memories of pitching for the Mets under Casey Stengel.
In reference to CBS Sports in 2013, Stengel more or less said: Craig, I know you’re going to pitch nine innings today and not pitch again for four days, but please don’t pitch between starts in case we’re leading. You may need to pitch an inning or two. ”