The Giants announced that former big league player and manager Roger Craig has passed away. He was 93 years old.
“We have lost a legendary member of our Giants family,” said Larry Baer, Giants president and chief executive officer in a press release from the club. “Roger was beloved by players, coaches, front office staff and fans. He was a father figure to many and his optimism and wisdom resulted in some of the most memorable seasons in our history. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Carolyn, his four children, Sherri Paschelke, Roger Craig Jr, Teresa Hanvey and Vikki Dancan, his seven grandchildren, his 14 great grandchildren as well as his extended family and friends.”
Craig was born in Durham, North Carolina and began his professional career when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950. A right-handed pitcher, he spent some time in the minors but military service during the Korean War prevented him from playing in 1952 or 1953. He made his major league debut in 1955, tossing 90 2/3 innings with a 2.78 ERA. The Dodgers won the pennant that year and faced the Yankees in the World Series. Craig started Game 5 and tossed six innings of two-run ball, earning the victory and giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. The Yanks would go on to win Game 6 but the Dodgers eventually won the deciding game and became champions. He went on to spend a further six years with the Dodgers, sticking with them as they moved to Los Angeles in 1958 and through the end of 1961, largely serving as a starter but also working out of the bullpen. They won another World Series title in 1959.
His tenure with the Dodgers ended when he was selected by the Mets in the 1962 expansion draft, making him one of the original Mets. The team fared poorly in their first two seasons but Craig was one of the more reliable members of the club, tossing over 230 innings in both 1962 and 1963. He gradually transitioned into more of a relief role in the next few years, pitching for the Cardinals in 1964, the Reds in 1965 and the Phillies in 1966. He won a third World Series ring with the Cards in 1964, tossing five scoreless relief innings as his club beat the Yankees in seven games.
That was his last season as a player but he quickly moved into other baseball roles. He became a scout and minor league manager with the Dodgers before being hired as the first pitching coach of the Padres, taking that role in their inaugural 1969 season. He stayed with the Padres for many years and also coached with the Astros before returning to the Friars. Just before Opening Day in 1978, Padres manager Alvin Dark was fired and Craig was put into the Skipper’s chair. They had a solid 84-78 showing that year but dropped to 68-93 the year after, leading to Craig’s firing.
Craig then joined the Tigers as a pitching coach for several years before being hired as the manager of the Giants late in 1985. That season saw the club finish with a losing record for the third straight year but they turned things around from there. They won 83 games in 1986, the first of five straight winning seasons. They won the National League West division in 1987 and 1989, losing the NLCS to the Cardinals in the former and the World Series to the Athletics in the latter. It was during this time that he earned the nickname “Humm Baby” that stuck with him from that point forward. The club’s fortunes tailed off in the next few years and Craig was fired after the 1992 season.
Craig’s playing career resulted in 1536 1/3 innings pitched with 803 strikeouts and a 3.83 ERA. On top of that, he had many postseason accolades and won three titles during his playing career. He then went on to have a lengthy coaching career, winning another title in that capacity while with the Tigers in 1984. As a manager, he went 738-737 overall but 586-566 with the Giants, leading that club to the postseason twice and the World Series once. We at MLB Trade Rumors join in the rest of the baseball community in sending condolences to his family, friends, fans and colleagues who are mourning him today.