Crowder's military time included missions in the Philippines and Siberia. He had reached the level of private, but never General. He did, however, learn how to play baseball while in the army. Though he was signed in 1920, he did not professional baseball until 1923. He made his MLB debut for the Washington Senators in 1926, when he was 27 years old. His first two seasons saw him go 14-16, total, over the course of 55 games, 41 starts. Crowder was traded from the Senators to the St Louis Browns in July of 1927, where he finished the season. It was 1928 where Crowder started to pitch his best. His breakout 21-5, 3.69 in 41 games, 31 starts. He pitched 244 innings and managed to limit the amount of runners on base over the course of the season, something that had been a problem of his in the past.
Crowder was never overpowering as a pitcher, which would have led baseball analysts today to suggest that his 1928 season was done in mirrors. Though hitters did not strike out at such a prolific rate as they do now, Crowder would walk as many batters as he struck out. As it was, he was still known for having relatively good control. His following season of 1929 saw him go 17-15, 3.92 in 34 starts while giving up a league high 22 home runs. At this point, he was a consistent pitcher, but not dominant by any stretch of the imagination.
This was evident in 1930 when Crowder lost a couple games to start the season. Though he had not pitched progressively worse than the past season or so, the fact that Crowder was 3-7 made evident that the Browns could get the same results from younger pitchers. Crowder was traded back to the Senators for OF Goose Goslin, a deal that inspire the future Hall of Famer to have his best big league season, hitting .308, 37, 138. Crowder himself responded well to the trade, going 15-9, 3.60 in 25 starts for Washington.
Crowder seemed to get better with age, as his next three seasons would prove. In 1931, he went 18-11, 3.88. He followed that up with his best season in 1932, winning a career high 26 games, losing 13 and pitching to a career low 3.33 ERA in a career high and league leading 327 IP for the season. In 1933, Crowder went 24-15, 3.97 in 35 starts, but also made 17 relief appearances. What stood out about that season was the fact that the Senators made it back to the World Series for the first time since 1925 and only the third time in their history. He got roughed up a little bit in his two starts as the Senators lost to the New York Giants in 5 games. In both of Crowder's starts, he hadn't given up a run until the 6th inning, but in both cases he could not get out of the frame. He gave up 6 runs in the 6th in game 2 and 3 runs in the deciding game 5, taking the loss in game 2 and blowing a 3 run lead in game 5. And the Senators would never make it back to the World Series.
After 6 effective seasons for the Browns and Senators, it seemed as if the age was starting to catch up with Crowder. His performance in 1934 for the Senators made it seem as if he had the previous season's World Series on his mind. He started the 1934 year going 4-10, 6.79. A bad start that would remind him of his 1930. However, it seemed as if General was at the end of the line. He was selected off waivers by the Detroit Tigers, a move that the pitcher certainly benefited from. See, his 5-1 record with the Tigers from August on was deceiving as that was the result of a very good offense and defense behind him. Looking back at his game logs, if you take out his back to back complete games where he gave up 0 and 1 runs, respectively, he gave up 34 runs, 30 earned, in just over 46 innings. That made for an ERA of 5.87, closer to his total season ERA of 5.75 (4.19 with Detroit).
Crowder would lose his game one start for the Tigers against the Cardinals, where he would go 5 innings, giving up 4 runs, 1 earned, in an 8-3 loss. Though he threw a scoreless inning in the deciding game 7 of the series, which the Cardinals won, it was the 9th inning of a game that was already 11-0 St Louis. In 1935, Crowder made 32 starts and went 16-10, 4.26 as the Tigers returned to the World Series for the second straight year and 5th time in their history. However, the Tigers were 0-4 in the World Series at this point.
Crowder was given the start in game 4 of the series. He would pitch one of his best games, giving up just 1 run while going the distance. It was his only World Series victory, both in a single game and as a team. Ironically, the series ended in game six on a walk off single by none other than Goslin, the man Crowder was traded for in 1930.
The question I have is why this man was called "General?" For those who live military lives, it could be a cause for contention. I get it, there was a General Crowder before, but I thought this was the era of creative nicknames. To call this guy General just because there was a General Crowder does not make sense to me. So, I decided to learn more about the original Enoch General Crowder. Prior to my research all I knew was that he was an extremely accomplished military man who was responsible for instituting the draft of men to serve in World War I.
Enoch Crowder was born in Missouri and had graduated college by the age of 16. After he taught a couple of years, his mom advised him to join the United States Military Academy. As a Lieutenant, he got his law degree then embarked on a series of ranks, making it to Major General by the time he retired. As a soldier and commanding officer, he was involved in the American Indian War, the Spanish American War as well as World War I. He implemented the Selective Service Act, which became the draft of American men between the ages of 18-30 into the armed forces. He drafted the legislation, which was passed by Congress, and supervised the draft taking care of the selection, registration, classification and induction of the Americans as they were put into service. And after a sort of revolution of Americans who decided to take being court marshaled to serving their country increased, he led the "work or fight" campaign, which got more cooperation.
Learning more about the original General Crowder makes me understand more of why it may have been considered an honor to allow the public to remember the great General as they watched another player pitch. I am sure General Crowder the pitcher did not care whether he was an actual General, he was simply keeping alive the memory of one of the greatest and influential Americans we have ever had. The General died on July 7, 1932. The pitcher pitched through the 1936 season with Detroit, after pitching in three straight World Series. The winner of 167 games during his career lived all the way through 1972, when he passed away at the age of 73.