Born March 22, 1921 in Whiteland, Indiana, George Daniel Crowe always declared basketball as his favorite sport. Named Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball” his senior year in high school (1939), Crowe went on to play basketball and baseball at Indiana Central College. After serving in the military, Crowe first played semi-professional basketball (Harlem Rens) in 1946. However; seeing the money potential for him in professional baseball, he also signed with the New York Black Yankees in 1947 and began his short Negro League baseball career. In 1949, he went uptown to play with the New York Cubans.
When the Negro National League (NNL) disbanded after the 1949 season, Newark Eagle co-owner Effa Manley recommended Crowe to the Boston Braves who signed him as a first baseman. He made his Major League debut on April 16, 1952; hitting .258 in 73 games with four home runs his rookie season.
Crowe played for nine years (1952 – 1961) in the Major Leagues on three different teams: Boston/Milwaukee Braves (1952 – 1955), Cincinnati Reds (1956 – 1958), and St. Louis Cardinals (1959 – 1961). The former Negro League ballplayer became a premier pinch hitter once holding the Major League record for career pinch hit home runs (14). Crowe hit 31 home runs for the Reds in 1957 and was a National League All Star in 1958.
Known as “Big Daddy” (6’2”, 210 lbs.), Crowe also became a mentor for young African-American Major League ball players in the 1950s (Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Henry Aaron, etc.). He helped them navigate through the racial prejudice and discrimination that existed in Major League baseball during that period.
To read more about the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown
The baseball career of James Buster “Buzz” Clarkson, born 2/13/18 in Hopkins, South Carolina, covered a large amount of ground; not much different from his Negro League contemporaries. It included stints in Negro League baseball, the Mexican and Canadian Leagues, and the winter leagues in Puerto Rico and Cuba; in addition to serving in the military (1943 – 1945). In the 1950s, Clarkson also played Major League baseball and helped integrate the minor leagues
At 5’11’ and a solidly built 210 pounds, Clarkson could play any infield or outfield position. He began his Negro League baseball career with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1937. When Clarkson played shortstop for the Newark Eagles in 1940, fans selected him to participate in the Negro League East-West All Star game (scored a run). He also played right field in 1949 All-Star Game while with the Philadelphia Stars (one hit and one RBI).
Clarkson signed with the Boston Braves in 1950 as a third baseman. After hitting over .300 in two minor league seasons, he made his Major League debut on April 20,1952, at 37 years old per Major League Baseball records. Knowing being older may hinder their careers, many former Negro League players did not give their true age when signing with a Major League team. His advanced age and the Braves having 20-year-old rookie Eddie Mathews at third base that year, the first of a 17-year Hall of Fame career, made Clarkson expendable. In his only Major League season, he played in 14 games with the Braves that year hitting .200; five singles in 25 AT Bats (.200).
Spending the remainder of his career in the minor leagues, Clarkson became as one of the first African-Americans to play in the Texas League (Class AA); hitting 42 home runs in 1954.
To read more about the Negro League baseball era The Last Train To Cooperstown