Lester William McCrabb
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 175 lb.
- Debut September 7, 1939
- Final Game May 4, 1950
- Born November 4, 1914 in Wakefield, PA USA
- Died October 8, 2008 in Lancaster, PA USA
Les McCrabb , nicknamed "Buster" as a play on the name of the Olympic star turned actor Buster Crabbe, was a right-hander who played only 38 games in a career that covered three decades. McCrabb most likely holds the record for the least number of games played by a three-decade player.
A butcher named E.C. Seldomridge, who used to catch sandlot ball, wrote a letter to Connie Mack about McCrabb. One day Mr. Mack invited him to audition at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, PA, liked what he saw and signed him to a contract with the Philadelphia Athletics.
After bouncing around with teams like the Williamsport Grays, Lexington Indians and the Greenville Spinners, Les was brought up to the Athletics late in 1939 and in his major league debut on September 9th, he beat the St. Louis Browns, 9-1. Buster started the 1940 season with the Athletics and relieved on opening day. "I didn't do very well," he recalled. "Frankie Hayes was catching and all he was calling for was my curve ball which wasn't my best pitch. I wasn't going to shake him off because he was a veteran."
In 1941 Buster had his busiest year, starting 23 games and going 9-13 with 11 complete games. "I was scheduled to start game number 40 of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak that year," said McCrabb. "But Johnny Babich asked to pitch in my place." Babich, who had beat the New York Yankees five times the year before, stated that he would retire DiMaggio in his first at-bat and then walk him the rest of the game to end his streak. DiMaggio doubled in the 3rd inning to foil Babich's plans.
Although Les didn't play a part in DiMaggio's streak. he did pitch against the Thumper (Ted Williams) the year he hit .406. "Ted got a couple of hits off me," remembered McCrabb. "One day I went in to relieve with the bases loaded and nobody out with Pete Fox, Joe Cronin and Williams coming up. Fox and Cronin popped up and Williams hit a one-hopper to the first baseman. I retired the side without a score. We didn't win a game in Boston for over two and a half years."
In 1942 McCrabb was hardly used and was sold to the Montreal Royals. During World War II he worked on his father's farm and pitched for the Lancaster Red Roses at night. After his playing career ended, "Buster" pitched batting practice at Shibe Park from 1948 to 1954. Yet the baseball records show that he appeared in two games for the Athletics in 1950. The details about that are interesting.
"In 1950 they put me on the active list but never used me," explained McCrabb. "Mickey Cochrane was coaching the pitchers that year. One day they called for a pitcher and Cochrane said "You're warmed up, so go in.' I went in and made one pitch to Johnny Groth, of the Detroit Tigers, who hit a line drive to center field and got him out. When I came in Mr. Mack said in reference to me, 'get him out of there.' What happened was, I had been taken off the active list but they failed to tell Mickey or me." (Note: McCrabb made two appearances in 1950, pitching 1 1/3 innings.)
After his active playing time was over "Buster" coached with the Athletics for five seasons. His five year major league run shows that Les went 10-15 with a 5.96 ERA while appearing in 38 games. In his 10 year minor league career he would win 108 times while losing 79 with a 5.78 ERA.