Atlanta Braves Franchise best catchers: Del Crandall

Joe Torre caught for the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Braves from 1960-68(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Joe Torre caught for the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Braves from 1960-68(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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The number three catcher on the Atlanta Braves’ franchise list, is Del Crandall, seen here denying access to home plate. (Photo Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images) /

GameChanger

At 5-9 and 190 pounds, Roy Campanella had the typical body type for a catcher of that era. Crandall presented a different look and style; a slim, agile, athletic catcher with a rocket for an arm, he moved quickly behind the plate, blocked pitches well, and cut down 17 of 33 runners (52%) attempting to steal in his first season.

Crandall would throw to any base if a runner wandered too far off the bag, something unheard of at that time, and caused considerable angst to his manager and coaches. That didn’t stop the Braves from penciling him in as primary catcher in 1950, but a broken finger limited his play, and Crandall caught just 79 games his sophomore year.

Crandall spent the 1951 and 1952 seasons in the military and returned to spring training in 1953, a stronger, fitter, and more mature player. A month before the season started, the Boston Braves became the first team to relocate since 1903 and took the name of their new home city, the Milwaukee Braves.

Del Crandall takes charge

Crandall started the 1953 campaign by catching a three-hit shutout and doubling in the fifth inning, and scoring the Braves second run. On June first, he was batting .326/.381/573/.954, with five homers, five doubles, and a stolen base.

NL manager Charlie Dressen selected Crandall him for the first of eight All-Star games, but on June 8, Crandall took a foul ball off his right hand that created a deep cut between his ring and middle finger. He missed the All-Star game and the next 13 Braves games, and when he returned, the sore hand and the layoff affected his bat.

He finished the season batting .272/.330/.429/.759 with 15 homers and threw out 27 of 53 attempted stealers (48%) in 105 games. His bat and defense help the Braves reach second-place and earned him 24th place in NL MVP voting.

Fast forward now to the 1957 campaign which Milwaukee won going away at 95-59, setting them up for a World Series face-off against the mighty Yankees (98-56).

Crandall caught Warren Spahn’s victory in game one, all three of Lew Burdette’s complete-game wins over the Yankees. When Burdette got the ball on two days rest, the Milwaukee bullpen was on standby from the first inning on, but Crandall guided Burdette through the rough patches and homered in the eighth inning of game seven to give the Braves a 5-0 lead.

When Burdette loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, Crandall reminded him that a slam wasn’t enough to beat the Braves. Burdette responded by coaxing a hard-hit grounder to Eddie Mathews to end the 1957 World Series and bring the Atlanta Braves Franchise its first world title since 1914.

The Braves failed to repeat as World Series champs in 1958, but they took the Yankees to seven games, and Crandall once again homered in game seven to bring the Braves within two.