The New York Mets family lost one of their beloved members when Roger Craig, a member of the original Mets, passed away Sunday night at his home in San Diego at age 93 after a short illness. Craig had spent seven years as a middle of the rotation pitcher for the Dodgers before joining that iconic 1962 Mets team who would go on to lose 120 games.
The Mets lost one of the original with the passing of Roger Craig
Craig was part a group that included some talented pitchers such as Al Jackson and Jay Hook, but he was the most reliable and consistent member of the staff. Despite his poor record, Craig was a stalwart of a legendarily bad team. Roger Craig would post a record of 10-24 for the hapless lovable losers, This was accomplished over 33 starts with 13 complete games with an additional three saves.
The following year was not much kinder to Roger Craig. Although he would lower his ERA from 4.51 to 3.78, this improvement was not reflected in wins and losses. Craig had a personal 18 game winless streak that lasted most of the summer. He even tried changing his uniform number from his 38 to an unlucky 13 in an effort to break his 90-day winless stretch. The streak was finally broken on August 9. Roger Craig's consistency was such that although his record was 5-22, he still pitched 14 complete games in 1963 with two more saves. Manager Casey Stengel once said of him: "You've got to be pretty good to lose that much and you could look it up." Who could argue with that?
Craig's post playing days were much more significant than was his active time in the game. After his short stay in New York, Craig would go on to pitch for three more seasons for the Cardinals, Reds, and Phillies. He spent another dozen years as a pitching coach for the Padres, Astros, and Tigers. Roger Craig managed the Padres and Giants for a total of ten major league seasons.
Roger Craig was a major proponent of the split finger fastball. It would become so popular that it was basically considered to be an era defining pitch for the 1980's. Craig taught the splitter, as it was to become known, wherever he went and its popularity spread throughout the MLB. This pitch would go on to become an important part of the skillset for many Mets pitchers who followed, such as David Cone and Ron Darling.
Remember Roger Craig as a member of the original 1962 Mets. He took his turn, took his lumps, and gave you everything he had for some very bad teams. He would always ready to go when his turn came up again. Make room in the 1962 dugout for one more, Mr. Stengel. He's one of the good guys.
And you can look it up.