Del Crandall: Requiem for a Catcher

(AP Photo/File)

(Editor’s Note: Because we know that man does not live by politics alone, but also by film, sports, booze, and barbecue, RedState writers are expanding their base of topics covered. How nice will it be to be able to discuss the topics you’re passionate about with others who share your political views, and not the woke scolds in most comment sections?)

Del Crandall died yesterday at age 91. He was best known for his baseball career: catcher for the Boston, then Milwaukee Braves (yes, kids, the Braves haven’t always been in Atlanta), winning a World Series in 1957 for Milwaukee. After his playing days, he managed the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners, subsequently doing some coaching and announcing, before retiring in 1997.

Crandall was a good player; not quite Hall of Fame material, but no slouch either. He placed second in the 1949 National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Dodgers pitching legend Don Newcombe. Crandall appeared in eight All-Star Games and won four Golden Glove awards as the National League’s best defensive catcher.

I never met Del Crandall, but I knew of him from his son Jeff, whom I interviewed some years ago in regard to his music career (he was the drummer for ’80s Christian garage rockers Altar Boys) for a book. Jeff spoke at length and with great love about his father; how the years of him being on the road prepared the younger Crandall for when it would be his turn to go on tour after tour. He spoke of his parents’ faith, and how it shaped his own. Jeff Crandall added how Del Crandall’s position as a catcher, the literal backstop of his team and not the attention-getting star player out front even though he was a star for years, also guided the younger Crandall through both being the drummer, not the visual leader, in a band as well as his post-band career as a worship pastor, working behind the scenes to provide a proper platform for the main pastor.

But, above all, Jeff Crandall recalled Del Crandall as a loving father.

Much has been written of sport as being woven into the fabric of even non-fans lives and how it brings families and friends together as it builds a foundation of memories passed on throughout the generations. It also provides some surprising moments; earlier this year when the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions executed a massive trade that saw Matthew Stafford coming to the Rams, coworkers noted their amusement that someone in the middle of San Francisco and Oakland Las Vegas Raiders territory can be an unapologetic Rams fan, for their part caring absolutely not a whit about sports, ask me my thoughts on the trade. (I like it.)

Yet even with this, ofttimes fans forget these are human beings performing for their entertainment. Cheering and booing come easy for the fan in the stands; ranting or railing on sports talk radio regarding any given athlete are taken to be as close to divine rights as it gets. And why not, the thinking goes. They get paid millions to play a game. Doesn’t this offer blanket permission to say or do as one pleases? Sure, as long as turnabout remains fair play and your favorite (or least favorite) player can come razz you where you work.

A point I’ve made elsewhere is that human beings greatly enjoy being able to enjoy empathetic moments with each other regardless of each other’s position on the societal totem pole. In its headlong rush to being more woke than thou, both professional sports and sports media are missing so many golden opportunities to create and strengthen such bonds. Every week we see another Megan Rapinoe kvetch about not being paid the same as men. Okay, we get it. Generate as much revenue as men’s soccer, you’ll get paid the same. Why not more stories about Alex Morgan raising her daughter? It’s a living embodiment of the meme showing a picture of Rey from Star Wars with the slogan “What Disney thought women wanted” followed by “what women really wanted” accompanying a picture of Grogu, a/k/a The Child from The Mandalorian, better known as Baby Yoda.

Let’s celebrate the life of Del Crandall. An excellent, well-decorated ballplayer. But beyond that, let’s celebrate the legacy he left for us in being an excellent man and father. Long after the ballpark lights go off, these things remain.