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Sport Scene America's pastime • MLS

Summer 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 3

Going to bat for America’s pastime

by Justin Phelps ‘05

Jeremy KrockJeremy Krock ’80 wanted to honor one Negro League baseball player last summer.

His efforts have turned into so much more.

Krock grew up a fan of John William Crutchfield, a 5-foot-7, 140-pound outfielder from Ardmore, Missouri, the hometown of Krock’s maternal grandparents.

Krock never saw “Jimmie” Crutchfield play nor heard radio broadcasts of the player whose hitting, running, and fielding have been compared to Seattle Mariners’ outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. Instead, Krock heard tales of “the best thing to come out of Ardmore” during family reunions in the small northern Missouri
mining town.

“I have a great fondness for that little town,” Krock said. In the summer of 2003, Krock, a Peoria anesthesiologist, visited the “Baseball in America” exhibit in Chicago. In the gift shop associated with the tour, Krock found a book Black Baseball in Chicago by Lester Miller, Sammy J. Miller, and Dick Clark. “I saw where it made reference to Mr. Crutchfield living in Chicago,” Krock said. “And I found out he died in Chicago. I wrote one of the authors, and he was able to tell me which funeral home handled the service and where he was buried.”

In the fall of 2003, Krock visited Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. He was surprised to find no marker for Crutchfield.

“I had always heard about him,” said Krock, sharing stories of how the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the 1930s would walk off the field if a fly ball was hit toward center with two outs, because they knew Crutchfield would catch it. “He had a wonderful baseball career; he wasn’t the best player in the Negro Leagues but he was a great player. I thought it was quite sad that he was buried in an unmarked grave.”

Krock contacted the Negro League committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) to ask for help. “The show of support was outstanding. Everybody loved this man,” he said.

Crutchfield grave markerAfter a call and donation from former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent and an offer from Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to purchase another former Negro League player’s marker, Krock was able to honor three players buried at Burr Oak without markers.

John Donaldson, a left-hander who once threw three straight no-hitters and was a scout with the White Sox before passing away in 1970, and “Candy” Jim Taylor, whose 45-year career as a player and coach spanned almost the entire black baseball era, received markers with Crutchfield.

“And as a result of the publicity,” Krock said, “in June we’ll be able to take care of the eight remaining players we know are buried in Burr Oak in unmarked graves.”

The Negro League committee of SABR is searching for more players to recognize. “That’s been an agenda topic at their meetings over the last couple years,” said Krock, a member of SABR.

Now Krock has taken on another project. At the ceremony in Alsip, he learned one of “Candy” Jim’s brothers is buried in Springdale Cemetery in Peoria. “Steel Arm” Johnny Taylor pitched and coached before retiring in Peoria. This fall, “Steel Arm” Johnny will have a marker too.

“It started out with trying to recognize Mr. Crutchfield,” Krock said. “And then you recognize there’s a lot more, and a lot of it is from the injustices of the two leagues, of no pay or little pay.”

For more information, visit www.SABR.org or call 800-969-SABR.