Roger Craig, baseball coach who taught split-fingered fastball, has died


Roger Craig, a well-traveled main league baseball participant and coach who turned a pitching guru within the Eighties instructing the deserves of the split-fingered fastball, has died.

The San Francisco Giants introduced Craig’s demise Sunday. He was 93.

Craig was the pitching coach of a dominating Detroit Tigers workforce that received the World Collection in 1984, then continued instructing the split-finger as supervisor of the San Francisco Giants, who received a division title in 1987 and reached the World Collection in 1989. A right-handed pitcher, Craig appeared in 4 World Collection throughout a 12-year profession that included seven seasons with the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Pitchers threw a split-finger by gripping the ball with their index and center fingers. The outcome was “a fastball that you just put an additional spin on it in order that it drops down in entrance of the batter so quick he don’t know the place it’s goin’,” Craig defined to Playboy journal in a 1988 interview. “To place it in layman’s phrases, it’s a fastball that’s additionally acquired the additional spin of a curveball.”

It wasn’t unique. Within the Nineteen Seventies, Bruce Sutter realized the pitch from a minor league coach and have become one among baseball’s greatest relievers. Craig stated a former Brooklyn Dodger teammate, Clem Labine, threw a split-finger within the Nineteen Fifties that was known as “a dry spitter.”

However the success of Craig’s college students, a mix of stars and journeymen, turned the pitch right into a phenomenon.

“There ain’t little question about it — and you’ll name me cocky — however whether it is thrown correctly there’s nobody dwelling who may even hit it and in the event that they do, it will likely be a floor ball,” Jack Morris, the ace of Craig’s employees in Detroit, advised Sports activities Illustrated in 1986.

Craig stated he taught the split-finger to anybody who wished to be taught, irrespective of the workforce. Among the many gamers he confirmed it to was Mike Scott, who received the Cy Younger Award with the Houston Astros in 1986.

When some pitchers throwing split-finger fastballs later got here down with arm hassle, Craig defended what function the pitch may need performed in any accidents.

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New York Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford, left, and Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Roger Craig earlier than Recreation 3 of the 1956 World Collection at Yankee Stadium.

(Related Press)

“To me you’ll be able to harm your arm faster throwing a slider, curveball, screwball than you’ll be able to throwing a split-finger,” he advised the Boston Globe in 1992. “When you throw it the way in which I educate it, it’s similar to a fastball. All you do is unfold your fingers.”

Craig, who by no means threw the pitch himself throughout his main league profession, began instructing it in 1980 to children at a San Diego baseball college he owned.

“Loads of pitching coaches attempt to educate you what labored for them,” Dan Petry, who pitched for Craig in Detroit, advised Sports activities Illustrated in 1984. “Roger teaches what’s greatest for you, probably as a result of he didn’t have that nice of a profession.”

Roger Lee Craig was born Feb. 17, 1930, in Durham, N.C. He stated he was found by baseball scouts in 1949, his senior yr in highschool, when he crammed in for a prime prospect who was harm. The 6-foot-4 Craig went to North Carolina State to play basketball, however stop in 1950 to signal with the Dodgers.

He spent 1952 and ’53 within the Military, assigned to Fort Jackson, S.C., and enjoying sufficient baseball that “I matured as a pitcher,” he advised The Los Angeles Occasions in 1959.

Craig reached the majors in 1955 and pitched with the Dodgers, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies till 1966. He began the Dodgers’ final sport in Brooklyn and was a key pitcher down the stretch of their first Los Angeles World Collection title in 1959. He pitched within the World Collection in 1955, ’56 and ’59 with the Dodgers and 1964 with the Cardinals.

His profession report was solely 74-98 however greater than 40 of his defeats got here in two seasons with the enlargement Mets. He was 10-24 within the Mets’ first season in 1962 and 5-22 in 1963, dropping 18 in a row.

“Dropping was an incredible affect in shaping my pitching philosophy,” Craig stated in “Inside Pitch,” a journal of the 1984 Detroit season he wrote with sportswriter Vern Plagenhoef. “I realized the worth of being aggressive, whatever the circumstances. I realized the worth of constructive pondering and the facility of shallowness.”

Craig coached with the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros and was a minor league supervisor for the Dodgers earlier than getting his first managing job with the Padres in 1978. He was let go after two seasons however wasn’t out of baseball lengthy. Supervisor Sparky Anderson, who like Craig grew up within the Dodgers’ system and coached with Craig within the Padres’ first season in 1969, employed him as pitching coach in Detroit.

“The person is a genius,” Anderson advised Sports activities Illustrated in 1984. “He’s so optimistic, he might discover good in a twister.”

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Former Dodgers pitcher Roger Craig waves as he rides in a cart earlier than a sport between the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium in Might 2015.

(Danny Moloshok / Related Press)

Craig retired after the Tigers received the World Collection in 1984 however was employed as Giants’ supervisor to complete out the 1985 season. The constructive outlook Anderson appreciated got here in helpful in San Francisco.

“I’ll always remember Roger’s first day in spring coaching [in 1986],” Al Rosen, the workforce’s basic supervisor, advised The Occasions in 1987. “He began telling these guys who had been so used to dropping that they had been going to win. He advised them he might see a championship of their future. Loads of guys had heard this earlier than however by the tip of the assembly, everybody was sitting up and listening to him in rapt consideration. It was fairly spectacular.”

It took Craig two seasons to show the Giants from a workforce that misplaced 100 video games in 1985 into the Western Division champions. They received the Nationwide League pennant in 1989 however misplaced to the Oakland Athletics in a World Collection greatest remembered for an earthquake simply earlier than Recreation 3. He was fired after the 1992 season.

“We’ve got misplaced a legendary member of our Giants household.” Larry Baer, Giants president and chief government officer, stated in an announcement. “Roger was beloved by gamers, coaches, entrance workplace employees and followers. He was a father determine to many and his optimism and knowledge resulted in a number of the most memorable seasons in our historical past.”

Craig is survived by his spouse, Carolyn; three daughters, Sherri Paschelke, Teresa Hanvey and Vikki Dancan; a son, Roger Jr.; seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, the Giants stated in an announcement.

As a supervisor, Craig was identified for his unconventional strikes, his skill to steal the opponents’ indicators and his never-failing optimism. Usually, he noticed the Giants’ weather-challenged dwelling subject, Candlestick Park, as a bonus.

“We knew the weather, the wind issue,” he advised the New York Occasions in 1987. “And it ought to assist our sinkerball and split-finger pitchers.”

Craig even gave the workforce a rallying phrase and a advertising and marketing software along with his favourite saying, “Humm Child,” one thing a Little Leaguer would chant on the sector to encourage his pitcher.

“To us, a very good fielding play was a humm child,” Craig advised The Los Angeles Occasions in 1988. “So was a very good participant, or perhaps a fairly lady within the stands. They nonetheless are.”

Thursby is a former Occasions editor.


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