Del Crandall

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Delmar Wesley Crandall

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Biographical Information[edit]

“Good catching demands desire... That’s one reason what Del Crandall is so well regarded by baseball people.” - Walker Cooper, to The Sporting News, March 14, 1956

Del Crandall was one of the top catchers of his era. He was an eleven-time All-Star, highly esteemed for his catching skill while no slouch with the bat either (179 career home runs). Playing most of his sixteen-year major league career with the Boston/Milwaukee Braves, he led the National League in putouts, assists and fielding percentage on multiple occasions.

Born in Ontario, CA, also the birthplace of Prince Fielder, Crandall signed in 1948 with Lou Perini's Braves and came up at just 19 in 1949, catching 67 games. He saw action in another 79 in 1950 before the Korean War enlisted his services for both 1951 and 1952. By the time he returned in 1953, the team had relocated to Milwaukee, now featuring young power hitters at the corners (Joe Adcock and Eddie Mathews), an exciting young speedster in center field (Bill Bruton) and promising hurlers like Lew Burdette and Bob Buhl flanking Warren Spahn. The best of all, Hank Aaron, was a year away as Del settled into first-string receiving duties, a position he would hold for the next eight years. Del made his first All-Star team that summer, en route to a .272/.330/.429 line with 15 home runs.

Every year from 1953 to 1959 (excluding 1955), the Braves pitching staff rated near the top of the heap in ERA, with Del playing a big part in their success with his work behind the dish. Not surprisingly, the team was habitually in contention. His bat was certainly a bonus, belting 21 home runs in 1954 followed by a personal best 26 in 1955. On September 11, 1955, he walked-off the first game of a double dip with the Philadelphia Phillies by belting a grand slam off Herm Wehmeier, part of a five run bottom of the ninth to seal a 5-4 win. He made it four All-Star Games in a row when he blasted 16 home runs in 112 games in 1956.

The Braves returned to the World Series in 1957, winning their second world title with Del routinely batting eighth in the lineup. He hit .253/.308/.410 with 15 homers in the regular season, chipping in another in the deciding game of the Fall Classic over the New York Yankees. Crandall returned to both the All-Star Game and the World Series in 1958, batting .272/.348/.457 with 18 home runs, 23 doubles and 63 RBI in 130 games. He moved up to sixth and seventh in the Series, batting .240 with another Game 7 home run... only for the Yankees to take the title with a late rally. His regular season performance was strong enough to finish 10th in MVP voting and become the proud recipient of a Gold Glove, the first of three in a row he would win.

Perhaps Del's two finest seasons swinging the bat came in 1959 and 1960. In '59, he hit 21 home runs, drove in 72 runs and scored 65 times, following in '60 with a .294/.334/.430 line with 19 home runs, 77 RBI and a personal best 81 runs scored. In 1961, he was cut down by shoulder trouble, playing 100-plus games for a final time in his final All-Star/Gold Glove season of 1962, batting .297/.348/.417. Joe Torre had come along and was the wave of the future. When Del's bat betrayed him in backup duty in 1963, he began his slide out of the big leagues, finishing his career with the San Francisco Giants in 1964, the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1965 and the Cleveland Indians in 1966.

When he retired, Del was among catching leaders in a multitude of categories. He ranked fourth in putouts, eighth in total chances and fifth in fielding percentage. Among National League backstops, he ranked fourth in home runs as well as games caught. His 45.44% in throwing out base stealers still ranks eighth all-time, even more impressive when you consider how little the running game was utilized during his day. Because he played more games each season than one might expect at catcher, the similarity scores method chooses players from a variety of positions as most similar, and most of them do not seem good comparisons. Perhaps the best comparisons are his contemporaries Sherm Lollar and Elston Howard.


Crandall managed many years in the minors, perhaps most notably spending eight years with the Albuquerque Dodgers and Albuquerque Dukes as part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. In 1969, he managed the young Steve Garvey and Ron Cey. In 1979, he managed another generation of young Dodgers such as Pedro Guerrero, Mike Scioscia and Mickey Hatcher. After stints as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers (1972 to 1975) and Seattle Mariners (1983 to 1984) and a season as a California Angels coach (1977), Crandall was a radio broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox from 1985 to 1988 and the Brewers from 1992 to 1994. He managed the San Bernardino Stampede from 1995 to 1997.

As of 2020, Del and Bert Thiel are the lone surviving members of the fraternity of Boston Braves players. Thiel died in July 2020, making Crandall the last surviving member of the Boston Braves. Crandall died at the age of 91 in May the following year.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 8-time NL All-Star (1953-1956, 1958-1960 & 1962)
  • 4-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1958-1960 & 1962)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1954, 1955 & 1959)
  • Won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957

Preceded by
Dave Bristol
Milwaukee Brewers Manager
Succeeded by
Harvey Kuenn
Preceded by
Rene Lachemann
Seattle Mariners Manager
Succeeded by
Chuck Cottier

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1969 Albuquerque Dodgers Texas League 67-69 5th Los Angeles Dodgers
1970 Albuquerque Dodgers Texas League 83-52 1st Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs
1971 Evansville Triplets American Association 60-78 8th Milwaukee Brewers
1972 Evansville Triplets American Association 20-17 -- Milwaukee Brewers -- replaced by Al Widmar (5-2)/Mike Roarke (58-38)
Milwaukee Brewers American League 54-70 6th Milwaukee Brewers replaced Dave Bristol (10-20) and Roy McMillan (1-1) on May 30
1973 Milwaukee Brewers American League 74-88 5th Milwaukee Brewers
1974 Milwaukee Brewers American League 76-86 5th Milwaukee Brewers
1975 Milwaukee Brewers American League 67-94 -- Milwaukee Brewers replaced by Harvey Kuenn on September 28
1976 Salinas Angels California League 91-49 1st California Angels Lost League Finals
1978 Albuquerque Dukes Pacific Coast League 78-62 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers Co-Champs
1979 Albuquerque Dukes Pacific Coast League 86-62 1st Los Angeles Dodgers Lost in 1st round
1980 Albuquerque Dukes Pacific Coast League 85-62 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs
1981 Albuquerque Dukes Pacific Coast League 94-38 1st Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs
1982 Albuquerque Dukes Pacific Coast League 85-58 1st Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs
1983 Albuquerque Dukes Pacific Coast League 43-32 -- Los Angeles Dodgers replaced by Terry Collins (42-26)
Seattle Mariners American League 34-55 7th Seattle Mariners replaced Rene Lachemann (26-47) on June 25
1984 Seattle Mariners American League 59-76 -- Seattle Mariners replaced by Chuck Cottier on September 1
1996 San Bernardino Stampede California League 70-70 7th Los Angeles Dodgers
1997 San Bernardino Stampede California League 50-51 -- Los Angeles Dodgers -- replaced by Dino Ebel on July 22

Further Reading[edit]

  • Gregory H. Wolf: "Del Crandall", in Gregory H. Wolf, ed.: Thar's Joy in Braveland: The 1957 Milwaukee Braves, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 59-66. ISBN 978-1933599717

Related Sites[edit]