Wade, Whistling Jake

Position: Starting pitcher, relief pitcher
Birthplace: Morehead City

First, Middle Names: Jacob Fields Jr.             Nickname: Whistling Jake
Date of Birth:  April 1, 1912   Date and Place of Death: February 1, 2006, Wildwood, NC
Burial: Bayview Cemetery, Morehead City

High School: Charles S. Wallace School, Morehead City
College: N.C. State University, Raleigh, NC

Bats: L             Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-2, 175
Debut Year: 1936       Final Year: 1946          Years Played: 8
Team(s) and Years: Detroit Tigers, 1936-38; Boston Red Sox, 1939; St. Louis Browns, 1939; Chicago White Sox, 1942-44; New York Yankees, 1946; Washington Senators, 1946

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
171     27       40       3          5.00    668.1  291      0.3

Johnny Allen had to be pleased when he saw who was the warming up in the Tigers’ bullpen to face him on what he hoped would be a historic October afternoon in Detroit for the last game of the 1937 season. The Tigers were sending out the whistling wild man, Jake Wade, the worst pitcher on the team, a guy who could be depended on to walk six or seven while giving up four or five runs. Allen had to figure this one was in the bag. Move over Lefty Grove.

 An orphan from Thomasville, North Carolina, Allen could be ill-tempered on the mound, arguing with umpires and brawling with opponents and teammates who made errors behind him. He was, however, a very talented pitcher. The ace of the Cleveland Indians’ staff, he had won 20 games the previous year and would have been even better in 1937 had he not missed almost the entire first half of season with appendicitis. He had not lost a game since coming back, however, and was looking for his 16th consecutive victory to tie an American League record held by league immortals Grove and Walter Johnson.

Standing in Allen’s way was a fellow North Carolinian, a 24-year-old righthander in his second year in the major leagues. There was no denying Jake Wade’s stuff – good fastball and a decent-enough breaking pitch.  If he could only find the plate. He had walked 107 so far during the season. Add the hits he had given up and an unwieldy 267 batters had reached base in only 165 innings of pitching. Little wonder, then, that when he took the mound that afternoon of Oct. 3, Wade had allowed an average of more than five runs a game and had lost ten while winning only six. His rookie year hadn’t been much better. No, he was no Johnny Allen.

Managers, however, usually don’t quickly give up on youngsters with hop on their fastball. They hope that they’ll one day learn how to control it. The Tiger skipper, Mickey Cochrane, had to wince, though, when Wade walked the second batter in the game after getting the first to pop out. Here we go. The kid, however, threw the third strike past the dangerous Earl Averill, and catcher Frankie Pytlak’s strong throw nabbed the runner trying to steal second. Double play. Inning over. Cochrane exhaled.

Tigers’ slugger Hank Greenberg singled in a run in the home half of the inning, and Wade retook the mound with the slimmest of leads. None of the 22,000 in Navin Field figured it would be enough.

Jacob Fields Wade Jr. was born on April Fool’s Day in 1912 to what would eventually become a small tribe of Wades in the house on Fisher Street in downtown Morehead City. He was named after his father, a commercial fisherman. To everyone in town, his mother, Lorine, was Lovie. Her eleven children would always win the church prize for the largest family in the congregation.

Like his two brothers, Wade excelled on the baseball diamond. His elder brother Charles Winfield – some called him Winny, but to most in Morehead City he was Croaker – would play and manage in the minors. His baby brother, Ben, would pitch for five years in the National League. The Wades are one of three sets of North Carolina brothers to pitch big-league ball. The others are Tom and “Tobacco Chewin’“ Johnny Lanning of Buncombe County and Gaylord and Jim Perry of Williamston.

Wade played first base, like Croaker, when he entered old Charles Wallace School in Morehead City, but his coach quickly made him a pitcher. Opposing batters complained that he often loaded his pitches with saliva and other substances. Though unsavory, such doctoring was legal at the time. After high school, he pitched for three years, starting in 1929, for what is now N.C. State University in Raleigh.

He made his pro debut in 1931 for the Raleigh Capitals in the Class D Piedmont League. The Tigers bought his contract the following season, and Wade spent the next four years in their farm system, walking more than five batters a game. He made his major-league debut on April 22, 1936, lasting one inning in which he gave up three runs on five hits. The Tigers sent him to their double A team in Montreal, Canada, but called him back in late July because of injuries to their pitchers. Wade ended his first big-league season with a lackluster 5.29 earned-run average, giving up 93 hits and walking 52 in 79 innings.

Given that history, Wade may have been the most surprised guy in the park when he took the mound that day to open the seventh inning. He had walked only two batters, struck out four and had not given up a hit. He was pitching the game of his life. Allen had been almost as good, allowing that first-inning run and no more.

The magic, though, may have run its course. A walk, a single and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs. In spots like these in the past, Wade crumbled under the pressure and started walking everyone in sight. “He got nervous and excited and tightened up in tough going and the going on this afternoon was tough, if it ever was,” a sportswriter noted at the time.[I]

But on that October day, Whistling Jake induced Bruce Campbell, the Indians’ right fielder, to lift a harmless fly to left for the final out. “Inning after inning, the chance of Allen winning 16 in a row became more and more remote due to the hurling of Wade, the one pitcher on the Detroit staff Cleveland felt sure of beating,” that sportswriter observed.[II]

About that nickname.. Some at the time said Wade acquired it because of his knack for imitating bird songs. This account left by a Detroit newspaper columnist suggests there may have been more to it. “A lot of fellows like to whistle, but they can take their whistling or let it alone. Not so Jake,” he wrote when Wade joined the Tigers in 1936. “He practices whistling like a Paderewski would practice on the piano.[1] A couple of hours a day. And make no mistake about it, Whistlin’ Jake really can whistle.”[III]

A roommate in the minors reported that Wade would sit in front of a mirror for hours whistling at his image. “This Wade is a screwball or I’m a goldfish,” the roomy told the newspapers.

Wade didn’t deny it. “I just like to keep my lips limbered up,” he said. [IV]

The kid better known for his whistling than his pitching breezed through the last two innings without giving up another hit. He won 1-0, denying Allen a place in the record books. “That’s the way I should have been pitching in April,” Wade said after the game. “I do everything backwards.”[V]

It would be wonderful to report that on that day Jake Wade became the pitcher that all his managers hoped he would. That’s not how it turned out. He went to and from the major leagues for seven more years and would never again pitch like he did on that Sunday afternoon in October. In fact, the Tigers lost faith that Wade would ever find his control after he walked 48 in 70 innings of relief in 1938. They traded him to the Boston Red Sox. Wade was even worse, allowing 105 runners in less than 48 innings pitched. Boston sold him to the St. Louis Browns during the 1939 season.

“I woke up one morning in the spring of 1940 at the Browns’ training camp with a sore arm,” he explained. “I kept right on trying to pitch the soreness out, but it was no use.”[VI] Wade spent the next two years in the minors trying to find his way back.

He was pain free and pitching for the Cincinnati Reds’ farm team in Indianapolis to open the 1941 season, but he had nothing on the ball. He returned home after appearing in seven games. “I went back home to Morehead City entirely satisfied that I was washed up,” he said.[VII]           

Wade settled in for a life without baseball. He had married a local woman, Rosalie Watson, in 1937. They had moved to Wildwood, a small community west of Morehead City where they would raise five children. To support that growing family, Wade pitched for minor-league teams in New Bern and Greensboro, North Carolina, and worked as a laborer and truck driver at the Marine Corps’ air station in nearby Havelock, North Carolina.

The following spring, however, Rosalie found him packing his bags. She asked where he was going. To Florida, Wade said, to find a real job in the big leagues. He tried to audition for a number of clubs at their training camps, but most wouldn’t even give him a tryout. With his money running out, Wade returned home when the season opened. Maybe, it really was over.

Hundreds of miles away in Chicago, Jimmy Dykes, the manager of the White Sox, was fretting about his faltering pitching staff. He summoned Wade in mid-June. “It (the salary) wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m back in the majors and after all, what more could a fellow ask?” Wade said after signing.[VIII]

In his first outing, he took over for the starter in the first inning and hurled eight scoreless frames, giving up three hits. He pitched two more scoreless innings three days later. In his first start a week after that, he mowed down the Philadelphia Athletics on three hits. He beat them again 12 days later.

Wade had his best years during the early 1940s. Playing for three American League teams, he pitched mainly out of the bullpen to lineups largely depleted of major-league caliber players because of World War II. While the walks were still high, Wade managed to limit the damage and became a serviceable reliever.

He joined the war effort by enlisting in the Navy in 1945 and spent a year pitching for base teams before being discharged. He played in his last major-league game in 1946 and retired from baseball after pitching four more seasons in the minors.

Wade returned to Wildwood and became an electronics repair technician at the Marine air base. He retired in 1976.

He died in 2006 at the age after suffering a stroke several years earlier.


Footnotes
[1] Ignacy Jan Paderewki (1880-1941) was a Polish composer and pianist who was a favorite of concert audiences around the world. A spokesman for Polish independence, he became prime minister in 1919 when the country was created after World War I.

References
[I] Fuqua, John. “Jake Wade.” Society for American Baseball Research, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/jake-wade/.
[II]Salsinger, H.G. “Jake Wade, Who Snapped Allen’s Victory String, Keep Knocking at Front Door, Entering at Back.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), January 13, 1938.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] Ward, Charles P. “Ward to the Wise.” Detroit (MI) Free Press, August 3, 1936.
[V] Ibid.
[VI] Holst, Doc. “Wade Beats Allen on One Hit; Goslin Released.” Detroit (MI) Free Press, October 4, 1937.
[VII]  Farrington, Dick. “Everything Turned Out Jake in Wade’s Comeback Hop, But Not Until He Whistled Long and Loud for Chance.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), December 2, 1942.
[VIII] Ibid.

Young, Pep

Player Name: Young, Pep
Position: Second base
Birthplace: Jamestown

First, Middle Names: Lemuel Floyd  Nicknames: Pep, Whitey
Date of Birth:  Aug. 29, 1907  Date and Place of Death: Jan. 14, 1962, Jamestown           
Burial: Guilford Memorial Park, Greensboro, NC

High School: Jamestown High School, Jamestown   
College: Did not attend
Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-9, 162
Debut Year: 1933       Final Year: 1945          Years Played: 10
Teams and Years: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1933-40; Cincinnati Reds, 1941; St. Louis Browns, 1945

Awards: NC Sports Hall of Fame, 2000

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
730  2466  645   274     347     32       .262     .308     .380     6.0

For most of baseball’s history, players like Pep Young were the epitome of middle infielders. No one expected them to hit balls out of the park or drive in many runs. They had to field their positions with aplomb, expertly turn the double play and hit just well enough and at the right times. During his four years as a Pittsburgh Pirates’ starter, Young was considered the best defensive second baseman in the National League, while hitting a respectable .260. He teamed with Hall-of-Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan to give the Pirates the best double-play combination in the league.

Born in 1907 in Jamestown, a Quaker settlement in Guilford County, Young was the second of John, a mill worker, and Bertie Young’s six children. He pitched on area sandlot teams and then for old Jamestown High School.[1]

Young signed with Fayetteville, North Carolina, of the Class D Eastern League as an outfielder in 1928 and batted .307. He moved up a rung the following season to the Class C Piedmont League where he played second and the outfield for teams in Greensboro and High Point, North Carolina, and hit 22 home runs.

The Pirates, who bought his contract after the season, invited him to train with the big-league team in 1930, but Young spent most of the spring at home with an illness. He played three infield positions and everywhere in the outfield in the Pirate farm system during the next three years and was called to Pittsburgh late in the 1933 season. He was used as an utility infielder for the next two years until starting second baseman Cookie Lavagetto pulled a leg tendon in May 1935.

Manager Pie Traynor inserted his 27-year-old reserve into the lineup on May 18. Young hit .429 over the next month with six doubles, three triples and a homer. He endeared himself to fans at Forbes Field after collecting two triples and a pair of singles against Carl Hubbell in a home game against the hated New York Giants. “So enthusiastically did Pep fling himself into his work that it now appears nothing short of a broken leg will cause the erstwhile utility man and pinch hitter to vacate the newly won position in favor of Lavagetto’s return,” the Sporting News, baseball’s bible, gushed.[I]

His slick, acrobatic fielding was also turning heads. Dizzy Dean, the St. Louis Cardinal’s Hall-of-Fame pitcher, became an baseball announcer after his retirement who was known for his colorful use of fractured English. He once had this to say about Young, “Pep scampers all around and eats up them grounders like a little old owl picking up mice, and he don’t never drop none.”[II]

All that scampering impressed the great Honus Wagner, a Pirates’ coach when Young joined the team. He said he never saw anyone play with such hustle and pep. The name stuck. Young had been called Whitey in the minors because of his light, blonde hair.[III]

He and Vaughan anchored the Pirates’ infield through much of the late 1930s. They turned 120 doubles plays in 1938 to lead the league. The Giants tried to trade for Young that season to shore up their infield for a pennant run. The deal went through until the Pirates had second thoughts and called if off. “We owned Pep Young for a few hours one night last June,” said Horace Stoneman, the Giants’ owner. “Young would have made the difference in the pennant race. The deal would have made us and ruined them.”[IV]

The Pirates released Young at the end of the 1940 season after he suffered through a couple of injury-plagued, lackluster years. The Brooklyn Dodgers picked him up in October and traded him to the Cincinnati Reds two months later. Young appeared in four games in 1941 and was released after the season. He pinch hit in two games for the St. Louis Cardinals late that season. He spent three years in the minors before returning briefly to St. Louis in 1945. He left baseball the following year after another season in the minors.

He returned to Jamestown where he had driven trucks and worked in the area mills during the offseasons and where he and his wife, Mabel, had raised their two children. He was working as a shipping clerk in one of those mills in 1962 when he died of a heart attack. He was only 54.

Young was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.


Footnote
[1]Also known as Jamestown Public School, the historic school building was built in 1915. It is a 2 1/2-story, Classical Revival style brick building with cast stone detailing. It features a full-height tetrastyle entrance portico supported by Ionic order columns and pilasters. The building underwent a major rehabilitation in 1986 and 1987 and now houses the public library. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

References
[I] “Floyd Linwell (sp.) (Pep) Young.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), June 13, 1935.
[II] Firesheets, Tina. “Pep Young\Jamestown Resident Steve Crichfield Shares Story About Baseball Star From the 1930s.” News & Records (Greensboro, NC), October 18, 2003.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] Russell, Fred. “Sideline Sidelights.” Nashville (TN) Banner, August 29, 1938.

 

 

Crowder, General

Player Name: General Crowder
Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Winston-Salem

First, Middle Names: Alvin Floyd      Nickname: The General
Date of Birth:  Jan. 11, 1899   Date and Place of Death: April 3, 1972, Winston-Salem, NC
Burial: Forsyth Memorial Park Cemetery, Winston-Salem, NC

High School: Did Not Attend 
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-10, 170
Debut Year: 1926       Final Year: 1936          Years Played: 11
Team(s) and Years: Washington Senators, 1926-27; St. Louis Browns, 1927-30; Senators, 1930-34; Detroit Tigers, 1934-36

Awards: All Star, 1933; N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, 1967

Career Summary

G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
402   167    115      22       4.12      2344.1 799    28.3

For six years starting in 1928, the great Lefty Grove was the only pitcher who won more games than Alvin Crowder, a durable and dependable right-hander who was so eager to be called into service that he was known as The General. He won at least 20 games three times, appeared in three World Series and was chosen to pitch for the American League in the inaugural All-Star Game.

A lifelong resident of Winston-Salem, Crowder retired after 11 seasons as one of the best pitchers North Carolina has ever produced. His 167 career victories is eighth-best among natives who pitched at least 500 innings in the major leagues. His 150 career complete games is sixth on that list and his almost 2,350 innings pitched are 10th. In all, Crowder is among the top 20 in 13 pitching categories.

Walter Johnson, a pretty fair pitcher himself, managed Crowder on the Washington Senators and had this to say about his ace: “Pitchers like Crowder come along once in a generation. He’s got everything – speed, curve, control and sense. There was many a time when I’d look the bench over for a pitcher to work the day’s game. Crowder would say, ‘Gimme the ball.’ And he went out and won 15 straight.”[I]

Born in 1899, Alvin Floyd Crowder grew up in the Broadbay section of southeastern Forsyth County, about eight miles from Winston-Salem. His father, George, was a blacksmith and a farmer and his mother, Emma, was a homemaker who took care of Alvin and his sister, Maggie.

Young Alvin quit school after the fifth grade to help on the family farm. He worked in a cotton mill when he was 14 and played baseball on the company team. He was also a mechanic at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston Salem and a riveter in shipyards in Alexandria, Virginia. He continued to play amateur and semipro ball.

Crowder joined the Army in 1919 and was stationed in Siberia and then the Philippines, where he volunteered for the base team to break the monotony of Army life. He found out he could pitch. By the time he was transferred to San Francisco in 1922, Crowder had established a reputation as a hard-throwing right hander. He is said to have won 19 in a row in the military league. He also moonlighted with area semipro teams.

Discharged that June, Crowder signed with the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League. He pitched one inning with the championship team and was released in the offseason. He had better luck the following year back home with the Winston-Salem Twins of the Class C Piedmont League, winning 10 games in his first full professional season.

He proved to be a rubber-armed pitcher for the Birmingham, Alabama, Barons in 1925, leading the Class A Southern Association in appearances with 59 while logging 226 innings. Because he would take the ball at any time, teammates called him The General after Gen. Enoch Crowder, the Army provost marshal who instituted the draft lottery during World War I.          

After he won 17 games in less than three months of the 1926 season, the Washington Senators bought his contract for $10,000, or about $147,000 when adjusted for inflation. Crowder reported to the reigning American League champions in mid-July with the team struggling to remain above .500. He made his big-league debut on July 24, tossing a complete game 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers, and ended the season with a 7-4 record.

An “ulcerated stomach” and a sore right arm interrupted Crowder’s spring training in 1927 and contributed to a disappointing sophomore season. After tossing a complete game to win his first start, he lost three in a row and was relegated to the bullpen. The Senators traded him in July to the last-place St. Louis Browns for fellow North Carolinian Tom Zachary. Crowder’s struggles continued with the Browns, as he won only one of his eight starts.

The 1928 season began with more of the same. Inconsistent and wild in his first three starts, Crowder was again sent to the bullpen. He worked his way back into the rotation in June and reeled of 10 straight wins, including nine complete games. Often pitching on short rest, he won 21 for the season, including the last eight in a row. In one game, he struck out Ty Cobb three times. Yes, the fuzz was off the 41-year-old Georgia Peach, who was playing in his last season, but the game’s greatest hitter hadn’t whiffed three times in a game since his rookie season 23 years earlier.

Crowder became known as a workhorse and was among the American League leaders in games, complete games and innings pitched. He was also an excellent fielding pitcher, making only seven errors in 450 total chances. After making an error against the New York Yankees on May 19, 1932, he went the rest of his career without making another one.

Speaking of the Yankees, Crowder beat the best team in the league consistently and even handled its star, Babe Ruth, with relative ease. “My success against them,” he said, “came from … studying the pitchers around the league. I tried to see what type of pitch each Yankee hit well, especially what they didn’t pull, and used it against them.”[II]

Back with the Senators in 1932, Crowder may have had the best season any pitcher in that franchise not named Walter Johnson ever had. He led both leagues in wins with 26, reeling off 15 straight at the end of the season, and proved to be the most-durable pitcher in the majors. He threw 327 innings in 39 starts, often on three days’ rest. “If you’d let him, he’d pitch every day,” marveled Manager Johnson. “His arm is made of rubber, and he doesn’t know the meaning of fatigue.”[III]

The Senators cruised to the American League pennant in 1933, their first in 12 seasons. Crowder won a league-high 24 games and logged more than 299 innings, second in the league. He was one of five pitchers chosen to represent the American League in the first All-Star Game that year. He always considered it his greatest achievement in baseball. “I don’t think a greater honor could be bestowed on any player, unless it would be admittance to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame,” Crowder said 25 years later.[IV]

He bombed, however, in his two starts in the World Series, which the New York Giants won in five games.

The General was 35 when the new season began and seemed to have lost his stripes. He had a 4-10 record and an earned-run average, or ERA, approaching 7.00 when the Senators shipped him to Detroit in August. He became the Tigers’ cagey veteran, going 5-1 the rest of the way for a World Series bound team. He appeared in another Series, losing his only start to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Crowder relied on instincts and an assortment of sliders, sinkers and off-speed pitches and methodical precision during his last full season in the majors in 1935. He won five of eight starts in June to keep the Tigers in contention and then won all five of his August starts, but age caught up with him. Physically drained, he lost all three decisions in September as the Tigers limped to their second-consecutive pennant. He took the mound in Game Four of the World Series in a chilly, windy Wrigley Field and the magic returned one final time. Crowder limited the Chicago Cubs to five hits in a complete-game victory that gave the Tigers a commanding 3-1 series lead. They won it two days later.

While Crowder was on the mound for his only Series win, his wife, Ruth, lay gravely ill in a Winston-Salem hospital. They had married in 1924, and she had been in poor health since the early 1930s.

In a story that doesn’t pass the smell test, a reporter for United Press International wrote that Crowder was close to tears in the clubhouse after the game. “His wife heard the game over the radio,” an unnamed teammate is quoted as saying. “The doctors told him that if won the game it would help her a great deal to get well. Hell, I’d like to see the guy bust right out crying. He’d feel better and nobody would mind.”[V]

Crowder developedl igament problems in his throwing shoulder during spring training in 1936. He had an ERA over 8.00 in limited playing by late June. He left the team and retired in the offseason. Ruth died several weeks after Crowder returned home. He married Joan Brockwell, a nurse in Chapel Hill, in September. They would have two children, Kathryn and Alvin Jr.

He led efforts to bring professional baseball back to Winston-Salem, which had been without a team since 1933. His Winston-Salem Twins, an unaffiliated team in the Class B Piedmont League, lost its first 28 games to begin the 1937 season. Crowder managed the team during the first 20 of those losses.[1] He secure an affiliation with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the following season and sold his majority stake in the team in 1939, but he continued to play an active role through the 1940s.  

Crowder owned a farm in Germanton in Forsyth County during much of his baseball career but he was living in Winston-Salem when he died of heart disease in 1972.


Footnote
[1] The Winston-Salem Twins’ 28-game losing streak was second only to Muskogee in the Southwestern League, which lost 38 straight in 1928. (“The General Finally Wins One.” Sporting News [St. Louis, MO], June 10, 1937.)

References
[I] Mallette, Mal. “Old Yank-Stopper Crowder Predicts They Will Stay Up Another Decade.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), July 12, 1958.
[II] Wolf, Gregory H. “General Crowder.” Society for American Baseball Research. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/general-crowder/.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] “All Other Thrills Combined No Equal to All-Star Pick in Crowder’s Book.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), July 9, 1958.
[V]
United Press International. “Al Crowder is ‘Man of the Hour’ as Tigers Praise him in Clubhouse.” Daily Illini (University of Illinois, Champaign, IL), October 6, 1935.

 

Crouch, Jack

Position: Catcher, pinch hitter
Birthplace: Cooleemee

First, Middle Names: Jack Albert            Nickname: Roxy
Date of Birth:  Oct. 12, 1903  Date and Place of Death: Aug. 25, 1972, Leesburg, Fla.
Burial: Woodlawn Park Cemetery, Miami, Fla.

High School: Undetermined  
College: Did not attend

Bats: R            Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-9, 165
Debut Year: 1930       Final Year: 1933          Years Played: 3
Teams and Years: St. Louis Browns, 1930-31, 1933; Cincinnati Reds, 1933

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
43        72        9          7          8          1          .125     .182     .181     -0.9     

Jack Crouch spent parts of three seasons as a backup catcher and pinch hitter and then spent his life in the lumber business in Georgia and Florida.

Though he was born in Cooleemee in 1903, Crouch wasn’t in Davie County long. His large family, which would eventually include six brothers and sisters, moved around the Southeast a lot. After Jack’s birth, the family lived in South Carolina and Georgia before settling in Richmond, Virginia, where Jack’s father, Pierce, listed his occupation in the 1910 census as “spinning room boss” in a cotton mill.

By the time the census counters came around again 10 years later, Crouch’s parents were divorced. His mother, Theodora, or Dora, still lived in Richmond with Jack and three other children. All worked. Jack, 16, was a clerk at the railroad.

We know nothing about this phase of his baseball life, whether he played in high school or for the American Legion. Crouch next appears in the historical record in the 1923 Atlanta, Georgia, city directory, which lists him living by himself and working as a ticket-taker for the railroad.

Crouch’s professional baseball career started seven years later for the Wichita Falls Spudders, the St. Louis Brown’s Class A farm team. He was hitting .324 with 11 home runs in 1930 when he got called up to St. Louis as the third-string catcher. He played in less than 50 games for the Browns over the next three seasons, appearing as a fill-in catcher or pinch hitter. He never batted higher that .167. He closed out his big-league career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1933.

After five more seasons in the minors, Crouch retired from baseball and settled with his wife, Ruth, and their son, Jack Jr., in Albany, Georgia, where he joined a brother in the lumber business. They moved to Miami, Florida, in 1945 where Crouch worked for a retail lumber and building-supply store. Jack Jr. was a high-school and collegiate baseball standout who played in the minors for the Detroit Tigers.

Crouch was living in nearby Fort Lauderdale, when he died at age 69 in Leesburg, Florida, where his son lived.