Saturday, November 9, 2013

Willie Crawford (#327)

Willie Crawford had a 14-year career from 1964-77 (mostly with the Dodgers), although his most productive seasons were from 1969 to 1976.

A football star at a Los Angeles high school, Crawford was signed by the Dodgers in 1964, and played in the minors from 1964 to 1968.

His major-league debut came in September 1964, and although he spent most of the 1965 season with the Dodgers (primarily as a pinch-hitter) and appeared in the 1965 World Series, he was back in the minors for all of 1966 and 1967 (except for September call-ups).

Willie was recalled by the Dodgers in mid-July 1968, and would be a regular in their outfield through the 1975 season. Crawford started 38 games in left field over the last 2 months of the ’68 season, replacing Len Gabrielson.

In 1969, Willie started the first 18 games in center field, filling in for Willie Davis, then filled in at the corner spots before assuming the regular right field job for the final 2 months. By the end of the season, he was the #2 outfielder in playing time, behind Davis and ahead of Andy Kosco, Manny Mota, and rookie Bill Russell.

The same 5 outfielders were back for 1970, although Crawford ended up sharing right field with Kosco and Russell. The following season, Dick Allen (LF) and Bill Buckner (RF) joined the team, so Willie became the primary backup at the corner outfield spots.

In 1972, Allen was out, Frank Robinson was in, and Crawford spent the season sharing left field with Manny Mota (although Mota played twice as much). Crawford was the Dodgers’ everyday right fielder in 1973 and 1974, making over 500 plate appearances each season (the most in his career). He batted .295 in both seasons, and hit 14 and 11 homers.

His production slipped in 1975, as Willie only started half the team’s games in right field. The following March, he was traded to the Cardinals for 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore. In his only season with St. Louis, Crawford hit .304 in 120 games, while starting 99 games in right field.

After the ’76 season he was traded to the Giants, who flipped him to the Astros during spring training. By mid-1977 he moved on to the Athletics, who released him after the season. Willie was re-signed by the Dodgers in February 1978, but was released during spring training. He played in Mexico during the ’78 and ’79 seasons, before retiring.

Crawford passed away in August 2004 at age 57, from kidney disease.

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