Sunday, January 11, 2009

Royal Memories: Dave Cripe

When I was a kid, my mom occasionally took my sister and I to see the Omaha Royals play. I remember one season, 1978, when she took us to a few games. I was 12 years old at the time. A third baseman named Dave Cripe caught my eye when he made a tremendous backhanded dive, ala Craig Nettles, snaring a ground ball and throwing the runner out. It made me think he might have a chance to play for Kansas City one day. But I was 12, what did I know?

Looking back, he’d been in the organization since he was signed as a free agent in 1972. He played for Omaha for two and a half seasons, joining them in 1976. Of course, a guy named George Brett was already establishing himself at third base in Kansas City, so Cripe never stood much of a chance. I certainly didn’t want him to oust Brett, but I was still rooting for him.

I can’t say for sure, but I think he wore number six when he played for Omaha. I followed him in the box scores for the rest of the 1978 season. While he didn’t put up stellar numbers (9 HR, 53 RBI, .300 AVG in 133 games), they were good enough for the Royals to call him up to the big leagues. According to Baseball-Reference, he played his first game on September 10, 1978 against California, going 1-1 with an RBI. He only saw action in seven games that September, getting 13 at bats. He had just one more hit that season. Baseball-Reference has a breakdown of all seven games he appeared in. Of course, with only two hits, there’s not much to see. According to this website, manager Whitey Herzog had this to say about why Cripe saw such limited playing time: “Dave really didn't get a chance to play much with us last September because of the divisional race, but we know he is a pretty good hitter. We also know he can play third and we'll watch him closely in the spring.” The Royals went on to win the American League West that year with a 92-70 record. Here’s a peek at the 1978 Royals roster. You’ll find Cripe’s name toward the bottom.

In 1979, Cripe went back to Omaha where his numbers diminished (6 HR, 46 RBI, .248 AVG in 131 games). In 1980, he went on to play in the Astros’ Minor League system and that was the end of his career. He ended up playing nine seasons in the Minor Leagues at varying levels. The most complete career statistics page I can find for him is on this website. Cripe went on to manage the Single-A Asheville Tourists in 1982 (they went 65-76, finishing eighth in the Northern Division, 31 games out of first place).

I’m not sure what he is up to these days, but for a brief summer many years ago, he had a big fan in Omaha.


Jeff said...

He played in the wrong era, looked like a good on-base guy. Would take a walk, didn't strikeout much. Billy beane would have loved him.

Lee Warren said...

Very true Jeff.

rnew101 said...

dave cripe is still playing baseball at age 59, hes on my team in san diego, and plays tourny ball when he can. injuries have slow him down a bit but still the best player in his age group, plays infield and pitches, and a great hitter, can place the ball anywhere he wants to, no matter how hard they throw, plays on a 45 team and a 55 team. dave is the nicest guy you would ever want to meet

Lee Warren said...

Very cool. I'd love to interview him some time. I cover the Omaha Royals for Drop me an email if you think he might be interested.

rnew101 said...

i will ask him today

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