Introducing… Del Crandall

Arguably the best catcher of his time, Crandall won four Gold Glove Awards and was named to eight All-Star teams.  Del often led the league in fielding percentage, assists and basetsealers caught during his career.  With a rifle arm, Del gunned down an amazing 46% of would-be thieves during his career.

Crandall joined the Braves in 1949 when they were still located in Boston.  He finished second to Don Newcombe in Rookie of the Year voting.  Del struggled his sophomore year but was unable to enjoy a rebound season in 1951 when he was drafted into the military.  With two years lost to the colors, Del returned to the Braves in 1953, who had relocated to Milwaukee, and showed the National League that Uncle Sam taught him a thing or two.  His first year after his military discharge, Del was named an NL All-Star when he hit .272 with 15 dingers.

One of the top power-hitting catchers of his day, Crandall topped NL catchers in the long ball department during the 1954 season with 21.  But Del played in the era of Roy Campanella and the Brooklyn basher led NL receivers in homeruns in 1955, even though Del cracked out a career high 26.  More consistent than Campanella, Del was usually good for a .245-.250 batting average with 16-18 homeruns during his prime.  The Dodgers never knew if Campy was going to hit 40 homeruns or play with a batting average of .220. 

The Braves went to the World Series in 1957 and beat the New York Yankees.  Del chipped in with a long ball during the series.  An All-Star again in 1958, Del won his first Gold Glove Award while also leading National League catchers in numerous offensive categories: batting average, slugging average, homeruns, RBI and base hits.  The 1958 World Series had the same cast as the 1957 series but a different script.  Although Del hit another Fall Classic tater, his Braves fell to the Yankees in seven games.

The top catcher in the NL again in 1959, Crandall led senior circuit backstops in runs, hits, homeruns and RBI.  Clearly the top offensive catcher in the National League, Del was also its best with the mitt.  He gunned down an amazing 52% of would-be basestealers and had the top fielding percentage among NL catchers.  In 1960, Del posted his eighth straight year of 15 or more homeruns while also leading NL catchers in RBI and hits.  Del was the only Major League catcher to reach 150 hits that year.

The injury bug struck Del in 1961 and he was limited to just fifteen games.  He bounced back nicely in 1962 to earn his final All-Star nod with a nifty .297 batting average.  After the ’62 season however, Del’s batting abilities dried up.  His batting average fell to .201 in 1963 and after the season he was dealt in a package to the Giants for Felipe Alou, Ed Bailey and Billy Hoeft.  Del spent his last three years in the Majors with three different teams.

After his playing days, Crandall was asked to manage the lowly Milwaukee Brewers.  He managed the Brewers for four years and later managed the Seattle Mariners for two, and due in large part to limited talent, Del never had a winning season as a skipper. 

THE NUMBERS

G 1,573/R 585/H 1,276/2B 179/3B 18/HR 179/RBI 657/BB 424/SO 477/BA .254/SA .404/OBP .312

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2 comments
  1. brettkiser said:

    As an elite defensive catcher with good power, Crandall was one of the best backstops of his time. He will always be judged against Berra and Campanella, two HOF peers. Del had a more consistent stick than Campy but Campy had some massive offensive years that Crandall could never dream of acheiving. Campy’s big years and the tragic end to his career got him into Cooperstown. Crandall’s HOF chances are weak.

  2. Tom Tomsick said:

    Del is one of few catchers ever to catch 2 consecutive 1-hitters by the same pitcher, Sam McDowell, April 25 & May 1, 1966. In fact the same umpire was behind the plate for both as well (Bill Haller). Del would have no passed balls that season.
    You can read more about Del and the Indians’ strikeout-record-setting pitching staff in “Strike Three! My Years in the ‘Pen” at cincybooks.com.

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