Roger Craig, a veteran pitcher who later managed the San Francisco Giants to the World Series in 1989, died Sunday. He was 93.
Craig, whose catchphrase “Humm Baby” epitomized his positive demeanor as he encouraged his pitching staffs through the years, died after a short illness, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Craig, a right-handed pitcher who won a World Series game with the Brooklyn Dodgers during his rookie season of 1955, led the National League with 24 losses with the original New York Mets in 1962. He brought the Giants to prominence as its manager during the 1980s, winning a pair of division titles and earning a World Series berth. The 1989 squad earned San Francisco’s first World Series berth since 1962.
In addition to winning the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955, Craig was also on the team’s championship squad in 1959 in Los Angeles and pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals when they won the World Series in 1964, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Craig was the Mets’ Opening Day starter during their inaugural season, going 15-46 over two years. He lost 18 straight decisions en route to a 5-22 record in 1963, prompting manager Casey Stengel to say, “You’ve got to be good to lose that many.”
He finished his 12-year major league career with a 74-98 record, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
“We have lost a legendary member of our Giants family,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. “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.”
Craig’s 586 wins as a manager in San Francisco are the sixth-most in Giants history and third-most since the team moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season, KRON-TV reported. Only Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker have more wins.
According to MLB.com, Craig became synonymous with the split-fingered fastball, which he taught while a pitching coach. One of his top pupils was Jack Morris, who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.
Craig was the first pitching coach when the San Diego Padres entered the National League and was the team’s manager in 1978. He piloted the team to a 152-171 record in 1978 and 1979.
Moving to Detroit, Craig became the Tigers’ pitching coach and helped Detroit win the World Series under Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, according to MLB.com.
In 1989 the Giants lost the World Series to the Oakland Athletics in four games, a postseason series more notable for a massive earthquake that rocked the Bay area and postponed the postseason series for 10 days, according to the Chronicle.
“Best manager I ever had. One of the best men I’ve ever met,” Giants broadcaster and former pitcher Mike Krukow, whose final season as a player was with the 1989 Giants, told the newspaper. “He made us all better. He taught us how to win. What more precious gift can you give an athlete? It’s funny, he was the guy at the helm in September 1985, but he was such an incredibly positive influence on me and made me a better person, better man, an unbelievable influence on all our lives, what he taught us on and off the field. He was our GOAT.”
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