Wednesday, March 01, 2006

March 1st, 1990

Creepy Crespi Dies

That's a nickname, of course; his real name is the drawn-out and distinctly Italian Frank Angelo Joseph Crespi. The nickname's origin, according to Crespi came from his ability to run nearly full speed after ground balls despite being in a full crouch. That seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but it's all I can find. For what it's worth, Crespi wasn't a bad looking man, so that's out.

Crespi had cups of coffee with the Cards in 1938, '39 and '40 but debuted as a regular in 1941 and immediately made an impact. Playing second base, Crespi hit .279 but with a .355 on-base percentage and was tenth in the league for times on base, in part because of willingness to take the HBP; he was second in the league with nine. (I suppose the other interpretation of that was Crespi was a jerk who pitchers were taking shots at, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt.) There wasn't a Rookie of the Year back then but Crespi would've been a contender had it existed, he finished in the top twenty in MVP voting.

His performance slipped slightly in 1942--Crespi hit just .243--and he was drafted into the Army in 1943. As it turned out, that would be his undoing. Crespi broke his leg playing baseball in the Army (well, they couldn't be fighting Hitler all the time) and had it set and was placed in a wheelchair. He might've returned and resumed his ball playing career except Crespi decided to prove his was still a decent athlete and got himself into a wheelchair race where he crashed into a wall and broke his leg, again. (I don't know if it’s ok to laugh at that, but it ought to be.)

He managed briefly in the minors before leaving baseball entirely and died in St. Louis , site of his greatest triumphs.

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