Saturday, November 16, 2013

Buy Local #5: Roger Craig

I do not do a lot of vintage cards on my blog, nor do I bring in a lot of players who played before the 80s, but it's really hard to do a series of posts on local North Carolina players and not mention the legendary Roger Craig.  Craig is best known for his role in helping the 1950s Dodgers teams to a pair of World Series titles in 1955 and 1959, and also for leading the San Francisco Giants as their manager in the late 80s and early 90s.

Roger Craig grew up in Durham, North Carolina and had a job as the bat boy for Durham Bulls at the time.  The Bulls have never listed Roger Craig as an official alumni, but there is a sidewalk square outside of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park which recognizes the Durham native.  

After graduating from high school, Roger Craig took a basketball scholarship to play at NC State and also ended up playing on the baseball team while he was there.  The Dodgers signed Craig as an amateur free agent in 1950.  His career was delayed when he was drafted for the Korean War, but by the summer of 1955 he was up in the Majors playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

1956 Topps Roger Craig 

Craig first appeared on cardboard during the summer of 1956, a year after he helped the 1955 Dodgers win the World Series by winning the pivotal game 5 against the Yankees.  One of the first vintage cards I ever bought when I moved to North Carolina was this copy of Craig's rookie card.  There used to be a card shop on Duke Street north of I-85 when I moved to Durham in the fall of 2005.  One of my first trips into the store,  the owner told me that I could not officially be a baseball fan in North Carolina without a copy of a Craig rookie.  He gave me a bargain and sold me this excellent copy for $10.  I have a few extra copies now, but it's definitely a really cool card to own.  

1963 Topps Roger Craig 

Roger Craig was also pretty famous for being one of the original New York Mets.  He spent the 1962 and 1963 seasons with the Mets and posted a record of 15-46 during his two season stay in Queens.  Despite leading the National League in loses both seasons with 22 and 24 loses, Craig was really not that bad of a pitcher.  In fact, between the two seasons he posted a WAR north of 5 with 3.0 number in 1962.  Just to give that a modern comparison, Shelby Miller won 15 games last season with the Cardinals and had a WAR of 3.  

Craig did make an appearance with the 1964 Cardinals and pitched two games in relief during the World Series.  The ring with the Cardinals was his third and final as a player.  Craig made a few minor league appearances in the late sixties, but was basically retired from baseball.  He went into coaching and ended up have several pitching coach gigs with the Padres, Astros, and Tigers.  The Tigers job gave Craig his fourth ring during the 1984 season.

Of course, many modern collectors probably best know Roger Craig as the manager of the Giants during the late 1980s and early 1990s.  He led the Giants to the playoffs in 1987, where the team missed out on the World Series by one game, and again in 1989, when the Giants won the National League and appeared in the World Series against the A's.

Craig retired from baseball in 1992, but has still been pretty active around baseball.  IBaseball recently posted a cool interview with Craig on their YouTube channel and he still shows up on baseball cards from time to time.  He even signs a few from time to time.

2001 Fleer Greats of the Game Roger Craig Autograph 

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