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Shag Crawford 1916--2007

July 23, 2007
July 23, 2007

Table of Contents
July 23, 2007

SI Bonus Section: Golf Plus
SI Players: LIFE ON AND OFF THE FIELD
Baseball
  • Henry Aaron is about to be displaced from his spot atop the alltime home run list, but 755 will endure as one of baseball's magical numbers, a lasting monument to an underappreciated star and to the courage and integrity with which the Hammer attained his crown

  • It's after midnight on the East Coast: Do you know where baseball's best closer is? J.J. Putz is in Seattle, saving games with near-historic efficiency

Pro Football

Shag Crawford 1916--2007

IT DIDN'T TAKE long for Shag Crawford, who died last week at age 90, to impress baseball observers as a hustling, authoritative umpire. In September 1956, near the end of his first year on the job, SI declared Crawford "our favorite umpire." "For connoisseurs of umpiring, the National League this year offers an encouraging phenomenon," wrote an anonymous correspondent. "He is Freshman Umpire Henry C. (Shag) Crawford, who never walks when he can run...." For the next two decades Crawford, a native of West Philadelphia, Pa., never strayed far from the action, sometimes even dropping to his belly to get a good view of a play. "The closer I am to a play, the better I can see it," he said. "I never hesitate in going down. It's too difficult to judge from an erect position."

This is an article from the July 23, 2007 issue

A founder of the umpire's union, Crawford—who got his nickname from his sandlot teammates for the shaggy clothes he wore—saw his career come to an end in 1975 in a dispute over World Series assignments. (Crawford, who worked three Series, didn't believe it was fair to go to a rotation instead of a merit system.) "They said they retired me," he said, "but in my personal opinion, they dumped me." The game wasn't without a Crawford for long; in 1977 the National League hired his son Jerry as an umpire. That same year, another son, Joey, became an NBA referee. (Both are still on the job.) "My father got a lot of [flak], and he gave it back," Joey Crawford told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "He didn't look for trouble, but if someone started defaming his profession, he'd throw him out quick. His profession meant a lot to him."

PHOTOBETTMANN/CORBIS (CRAWFORD)FEELING BLUE Crawford was a top NL ump for 20 years.PHOTOCOURTESY CRAWFORD FAMILY (CRAWFORD AND SONS)