SABR

Pat Creeden

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

It was remarkably kind for his hometown newspaper to place a headline on Patrick Francis Creeden’s obituary calling him a “baseball legend.” [1] The historical record shows a total of one week in organized baseball - and not one hit. Never one day in the minor leagues. Five games with the Boston Red Sox in 1931. He had 13 chances in the field, and committed two errors. That was Pat Creeden's career.

He came to the Red Sox almost directly, but not quite, from Boston College. He was active on the football team, making his mark right from his first year (he was dubbed the “freshman star,” so much so that the Boston Globe headlined a September 1927 story on varsity football “CREEDEN JOINS B.C. SQUAD FOR PRACTICE.”) [2] The “Brockton flash” played left halfback. He missed time due to injury, particularly in his sophomore year, but in his junior year helped lead the Eagles to an undefeated season and by senior year became captain of the B. C. eleven.

He was also the star second baseman for the Eagles, playing right up to his graduation in June 1930. After graduation, he returned once more to the Cape Cod League where he had played summer baseball since at least 1927, playing his last Cape season for Hyannis. One game of note that took place at Walkover Park in Brockton saw Hyannis take on the Philadelphia Colored Giants and go down to defeat, 4-3. Creeden played second base and was 2-for-4. [3] Whether he played minor-league ball that summer is uncertain. His obituary says, “After graduation he…played a summer in the minor leagues before becoming injured.” He himself also reported 1930 as his first year of professional baseball.

We do know that in the fall of 1930 he coached freshman football for Fordham College. The Red Sox announced his signing on December 20. [4]

Creeden had been born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on May 23, 1906, to a master plumber, Jeremiah Creeden, and his wife Margaret (Leary) Creeden. Both were Bay State natives with Massachusetts fathers, but both had mothers who had come to the United States from Ireland. He had a sister about a year older than he who worked as a bookkeeper in the plumbing business, and a brother a couple of years younger. The family lived in West Newbury, but by the time Patrick was ready for school they were situated in Brockton where he graduated Brockton High in 1926. He had led the Brockton High varsity football team to an undefeated season in 1924, and was also named an All-New England guard in basketball that same year. He is one of the original six members of the Brockton High Hall of Fame. [5]

A few spring training bulletins from 1931 showed that he had promise. The Associated Press one is of interest: “Paddy Creeden is filling Bob Reeve’s [sic] shoes at second base for the Red Sox these days and he doesn’t need any padding in the toes, either. The little Brockton, Mass., boy is doing a great job, both on the second sack and at bat.” [6] Creeden was short of stature but stocky, standing 5-foot-8 ½ and weighing 170 pounds (per the questionnaire he returned to the National Baseball Hall of Fame).

Red Sox manager Shano Collins wasn’t sure what he was going to do at second base. Bobby Reeves had seen his average plunge from .248 in 1929 to .217 in 1930. It didn’t look like he was going to be able to provide any help in getting the Red Sox out of their accustomed spot in the American League cellar. He did like Paddy Creeden, though. Burt Whitman wrote in the Boston Herald: “Paddy is one of those courageous, fightly lads for who Manager Collins has a weakness, and that means Paddy probably will stick around with the Sox for some time, possibly more or less as a regular.” [7]

Creeden made the team out of spring training and was assigned #8 to wear on his jersey; 1931 was the first year the Red Sox wore numerals on their uniforms. Reeves started the season’s first game, on April 14, but went 0-for-4 at the plate. The Sox lost to the Yankees, 6-3, in New York. Creeden pinch-hit for Rabbit Warstler in the eighth inning but made an out. It was Ollie Marquardt who took over at shortstop for Warstler. He pinch-hit again the next day, in the sixth inning on April 15, again failing to hit safely. After a third loss to the Yanks, the Red Sox finally won one, 5-4, in 15 innings on April 18. Creeden had another 0-for-1, pinch-hitting in vain in the seventh inning.

Given his first chance to play the field on April 20, he started at second base against the Senators in Washington and was 0-for-2. He made two putouts, had one assist, and committed one error, a wild throw. Reeves took over later in the game. The seven runs the Red Sox scored in the seventh inning helped them to a 13-3 win. The Boston Herald was not impressed: “Young Creeden, the Boston College product who is fashioned on the order of Hack Wilson, failed to display anything like that worthy’s prowess.” [8]

The very next day, Washington turned the tables, hammering the Red Sox, 12-3. Creeden started again, and was 0-for-3. He was busier in the field, handling nine chances but fumbling one of them, resulting in the bases getting loaded. He did kick off what the Washington Post called a “snappy double play.” A separate story in the April 22 Post elaborated, though inexplicably assigning him an unusual first name: “Urban Creeden, Sox second sacker, turned in a brilliant play in the Nats’ first when he raced to short right center to take Cronin’s near-Texas leaguer and followed through with a peg while falling which doubled up Manush at first.”

He was now 0-for-8, with two errors in the two games he’d played in. He’d never hit the ball safely, but had experienced the thrill of playing in five big-league ballgames. His career was over.

Somewhere along the way, he picked up the nickname “Whoops” – one he himself reported.

Is it true that he never played another game in organized ball? Again, two things lead us to believe that he did play at least part of 1932. First of all, he said he did, declaring 1932 as his last year in professional baseball on his player questionnaire. And the obituary in the Enterprise says, “throughout the years he coached high school, Triple-A, and semipro football and baseball teams and played with the Williamsport team of the Penn-New York State League.”

In the Second World War, he enlisted in the United States Navy serving from September 1942 until March 1946, instructing physical education classes as well as seeing some active duty.

His employment until his retirement in 1972 was with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Youth Service in the Department of Education. He served as the superintendent of John Augustus Hall in Oakdale, a residential treatment unit.

Though he never married, he left behind a family in his brother and sister, and sister-in-law, a nephew and niece, three grandnephews, and one grandniece. He died after a short illness on April 20, 1992, in Brockton, his home for 75 years.

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed his player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.






[1] Brockton Enterprise, April 22, 1992


[2] Boston Globe, September 8, 1927


[3] Boston Globe, September 16, 1917


[4] Christian Science Monitor, December 22, 1930


[5] Brockton Enterprise, op. cit.


[6] See, for instance, Chicago Tribune, March 17, 1931. 


[7] Boston Herald, April 13, 1931


[8] Boston Herald, April 21, 1931
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