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Harry Francis Craft (April 19, 1915 in Ellisville, Mississippi - August 3, 1995 in Conroe, Texas) was a Major League Baseball player and manager. He was an center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds from 1937-1942. Craft attended Mississippi College.

Career Overview

A well-praised defensive center fielder, Craft was an average hitter in his short career. His best season came, basically, as a rookie (he had 42 at bats the previous season) in 1938. On June 15 of that year, Craft caught the ninth-inning pop fly (batted by Leo Durocher) to make the final out in the historic game that gave Johnny Vander Meer his second consecutive no-hitter. That same season, Craft batted a solid .270 as the Reds' everyday center fielder with 15 home runs and 83 RBIs in 151 games. He had 165 hits that season in 612 at bats. All those numbers ended up being career-highs. The next two years were Cincinnati's best seasons as they went to the World Series in both, winning in 1940 against the Detroit Tigers. However, Craft did not play a large part in the victory, having only 1 at bat. He ended up with just one postseason hit, which came the year before.

On June 8, 1940, he hit for the cycle in a 23-2 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Craft retired two years later.

In six seasons, Craft had an all-time .253 batting average with 44 home runs and 267 RBIs. He accumulated 14 stolen bases and 237 runs scored. He had 533 hits in 2104 at bats.

Craft began his managing career in the farm system of the New York Yankees and progressed to the AAA level with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association in 1953. When the American League Philadelphia Athletics became the Kansas City A's in 1955, Craft was named a coach on the staff of Lou Boudreau. After over 2½ losing seasons, Boudreau was released in July 1957 and Craft was named his successor. In his first season, he was 23-27. He then lasted two more full campaigns, 1958 and 1959, before his firing. Craft finished with an 162-196 record at Kansas City. His best finish was seventh place.

In 1961, Craft was a member of Chicago Cubs owner Phil Wrigley's ill-fated College of Coaches From 1961-65, the team had no permanent manager, and rotated the "head coach" job among its coaching staff. Craft led the Bruins for 16 games in 1961, coming out 7-9, as one of four head coaches that year.

Seeking to be a manager, not a "head coach", Craft became the first skipper in the history of the expansion Houston Colt .45s the following year. He managed them from 1962-1964, before his replacement by Lum Harris in the closing days of the '64 season. He ended 191-280 with the Colt .45s, never having managed an above .500 team in all or parts of seven seasons as a big league manager. He remained in the game, however, as a scout and farm system official for the Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and the Yankees, retiring in 1991.

Craft had a young Roger Maris on his Kansas City teams in 1958 and '59, before he was traded to the Yankees with two players for Don Larsen and three others. Maris credited Craft as a helping him with his hitting. Oddly enough, Mickey Mantle had started his baseball career under Craft. He was Mantle's manager for the Independence, Missouri, team in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League and then at Joplin, Missouri, in the Western Association. Those were Mantle's very first years. "I was lucky to have Harry as skipper my first two years," Mantle said years later. "He started me out right." [1]

Craft ended his managing career with a 360-485 record in 849 games, a .426 winning percentage. His best finish was seventh place. The authors of The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, Brendan C. Boyd & Fred C. Harris, Little Brown & Co, 1973, had this to say about Craft's career on p.52, perhaps unfairly given what little he had to work with on those clubs: "Of course, if you are really lousy at what you do, there's always a chance you can work your way into management, that being the American Way... Harry Craft managed three teams in a seven year span... They finished 7th, 7th, 7th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 9th. Do I detect a trend in there somewhere?"

He died after a long illness, at the age of 80 on Thursday, August 3, 1995. He had two children, a son and a daughter.

See also

External links

Preceded by
Lou Boudreau
Kansas City Athletics Manager
Succeeded by
Bob Elliott
Preceded by
Vedie Himsl
Chicago Cubs Manager
Succeeded by
El Tappe
Preceded by
First Manager
Houston Colt .45s Manager
Succeeded by
Lum Harris


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