Roger Craig, World Series fixture as pitcher and manager, dies

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Monday, June 5, 2023

NEW YORK -- Roger Craig, who pitched for three championship teams during his major league career and then managed the San Francisco Giants to the 1989 World Series that was interrupted by a massive earthquake, has died. He was 93.

A spokesperson for the Giants said the team was informed by a family member that Craig died Sunday in San Diego following a short illness.

"We have lost a legendary member of our Giants family," Giants president and chief executive officer 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 was a rookie on the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers club that won the franchise's first title. He had a terrific season for the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. And he made 39 appearances for the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals squad that topped the New York Yankees for the championship.

The 6-foot-4 right-hander also pitched for the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies during his 12-year career, finishing 74-98 with a 3.83 ERA and 19 saves. His best season came in 1959, when he went 11-5 with a 2.06 ERA in 29 games (17 starts), and his four shutouts tied for most in the National League.

Craig started and won Game 5 of the 1955 World Series against the Yankees to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. He was hit hard in his next two Series (1956 and 1959), then rebounded in the 1964 Fall Classic as he struck out eight in 4 scoreless innings of relief to earn the win in Game 4 for the Cardinals.

But for all his team success, Craig also knew well what it was like to languish in last place. He started the first game in franchise history for the expansion Mets in 1962, taking an 11-4 loss in St. Louis. On a laughingstock squad that went a woeful 40-120, he paced New York with 10 wins. He was 15-46 for the Mets from 1962-63, leading the majors in losses both years.

After his playing days were done, Craig became a renowned pitching coach for the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers -- famously encouraging his charges to "humm, baby" in a low southern drawl.

He was on manager Sparky Anderson's staff with the 1984 Tigers, who opened 35-5 and won the World Series. Craig was credited with teaching the split-finger fastball to Hall of Fame starter Jack Morris and 1986 NL Cy Young Award winner Mike Scott.

Craig's first job as a big league manager came with the Padres in 1978. He guided them to a 15-win improvement from the previous year and the first winning record in team history at 84-78. But he was fired after going 68-93 in 1979.

He was hired by the Giants in September 1985 and managed them through 1992, winning NL West titles in 1987 and 1989.

San Francisco beat the Chicago Cubs in the 1989 playoffs to capture its first National League pennant in 27 years, but the Giants were swept by the Oakland Athletics in a World Series billed as the Battle of the Bay.

Just before Game 3 was scheduled to begin at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 1989, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake rocked Northern California, killing 67 people and causing more than $5 billion in damages.

The game was postponed and the World Series resumed 10 days later, with the A's ultimately completing a four-game sweep of Craig and his Giants.

He finished with a 738-737 record as a major league manager, including 586-566 for San Francisco.

Craig was born Feb. 17, 1930, in Durham, North Carolina, and attended North Carolina State on a basketball scholarship before signing with the Dodgers. The Giants said he is survived by his wife, Carolyn, his four children, Sherri Paschelke, Roger Craig Jr., Teresa Hanvey and Vikki Dancan, seven grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.