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Jimmie Crutchfield

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John William Crutchfield

[edit] Biographical Information

Jimmie Crutchfield was known as a speedy offensive threat and a defensive specialist in the outfield in a Negro League career that spanned most of two decades. He was a four-time participant in the East-West Game. James Riley writes that he was often compared to Lloyd Waner in skill set for being a small ball expert with speed and defensive skills but not much power. Additionally, they both played center field in Pittsburgh in the same era, a strong reason the two may have been closely linked in some minds. He was also known for his hustle and behind-the-back catches.

After college, Crutchfield joined the Birmingham Black Barons for $90 per month in 1930, hitting .288 with 9 triples, tying Mule Suttles and Huck Rile for third in the Negro National League. In his first game, the light hitter homered to help Satchel Paige to a win. Jimmie hit .299 for the Indianapolis ABCs early in the 1931 campaign but jumped to the Pittsburgh Crawfords for $150 a month. He hit only .200 in Pittsburgh. In an exhibition series against Larry French, Bill Swift, Roy Parmelee and Fred Frankhouse, he was 8 for 24. The next year, he improved to .255. In 1933, the 23-year-old outfielder batted .247; he fell to .211 the next year but his 3 steals tied him for 4th in the NNL. On September 9, he made a great running grab to save Paige in a famous duel against Slim Jones. He also started in right field for the East in the 1934 East-West Game, going 0 for 3 but making a great defensive play in the East's 1-0 win, catching a Red Parnell fly and throwing home to get Mule Suttles for a crucial game-saving double play.

With Pittsburgh becoming the top powerhouse in eastern black baseball, Crutchfield hit .327 in 1935 and was 1 for 4 in an exhibition against the Dizzy Dean All-Stars. He was 0 for 2 in the 1935 East-West Game before being replaced by Turkey Stearnes as the right fielder for the West. Jimmie hit .265 for Pittsburgh in '36 and was 5 for 17 in an exhibition series against Bob Feller, Jim Winford, Mike Ryba, Jim Weaver and Earl Caldwell. In a Mexican tour by the Crawfords, he went 3 for 13. The #3 vote-getter among outfielders for the 1936 East-West Game (behind Goose Curry and Cool Papa Bell), Crutchfield was 0 for 2 in another poor offensive show before Zolley Wright replaced him in right.

When Pittsburgh began to crumble, Jimmie joined the Newark Eagles and hit .313 in 1937 followed by .270 a year later. In the winter of 1938-1939, he played in the initial season of the Puerto Rican League and would be the last surviving player from the PRL's debut year. Moving to the Toledo Crawfords, he only eked out a .105 mark in 1939.

Beginning 1940 with the Indianapolis Crawfords, Jimmie retired for personal reasons, but returned with the 1941 Chicago American Giants, hitting .297. He was fifth among outfielders in East-West Game voting and was 1 for 3 as the backup left-fielder for the West. It was his only hit in 10 East-West Game at-bats. In 1942, the 32-year-old veteran slipped to .242.

In 1943 and part of 1944, Crutchfield served in the United States Army. He then was with the Cleveland Buckeyes briefly but returned to Chicago for most of 1944 to bat .254 then followed with a .300 campaign to conclude his career with one of his best averages.

After retiring, "Crutch" worked in the postal service for 26 years.

Sources: The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester

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