“George Crable Batting .400 in the Harmony League.” — Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 24, 19111
Nebraskan left-hander George Crable parlayed two games with the Brooklyn Superbas in August 1910 into a nearly two-decade baseball-themed vaudeville stage career. Sadly, he lost all of his sports and theater memorabilia in a 1931 fire at his cigar shop, before later moving to Florida and changing his name.
George Elmer Crable was born on January 9, 1885, in Buffalo County, Nebraska, to David Perry Crable, a Pennsylvania-born canvas and saddle maker and farmer, and Lovina Rosella (Rose, nee Faddis) Crable, who was born in New York. The family included nine children from David’s first wife, who had died in 1882. Another son, Louis, followed George in 1888. George was raised in Shelton, Nebraska. By the turn of the century, the family had moved to Leigh, Nebraska, where George played on a youth ball team.
In 1905, George, “a first baseman from Omaha,” made his way to La Grande, Oregon, playing with an amateur team, then an Ellensburg, Washington, squad in summer ball in a southern Washington league.2 He started the next year playing for a Warwicks team in the amateur Spokane (Washington) City League.3 He was quickly recruited to the Butte (Montana) Miners of the second-year Class B Northwestern League,4 but was released in late May.5 By June, Crable returned to Nebraska, signing up with an independent squad in Grand Island. The initial report showed that “a new man, Crable, of Butte, Montana, was treated in a heartless manner” by Hastings (Nebraska).6 By September, Crable was reported pitching a “steamy game” for Grand Island in a shutout over Superior (Nebraska).7
From spring to fall in 1907, Crable pitched for four different teams in New Mexico, before participating in a Southwest tournament with a cash purse.8 After the tournament, he headed to Colorado where, on November 26, he married divorcee Madeline (Mussette) DeFord in the town of Las Animas. To cap off the year, he signed with the Austin Senators of the Class C Texas League for the 1908 campaign, heralded as the “new pitcher look[ing] like [the] man Austin needs.”9
Crable didn’t look so fetching for Austin in a March 1908 four-inning spring training start against the St. Louis Cardinals, as he “went to pieces in the fourth and forced in two runs, giving a string of base on balls and hitting a batsman,” walking six on the day.10 He started the year with Austin, but didn’t last long.11 In one start, he was ejected, with the team finally forfeiting a loss to Waco.12 By late May, he was traded within the league to the Houston Buffaloes,13 besting his old Dallas squad a week later.14 However, he was cut by Houston in July. Crable soon signed with the Galveston Sand Crabs, also in the Texas League, and surrendered 14 runs in a loss to Dallas.15 He pitched the final game of the season for Galveston, being “dead easy for the visitors at all times, fourteen safe hits being made off his delivery.”16 Crable finished the Texas League season with a combined 9-16 record. After the season, and upon his return to Kearney, Nebraska, he taught “fancy and customary” dancing lessons.17 He had been teaching lessons throughout the West Coast, including San Francisco and Seattle, for parts of four years.18 His brother Louis (nicknamed L.R.) still lived in Kearney, running the Opera House Barber Shop and later playing the trumpet in the local VFW band.
Back with Galveston for 1909, Crable didn’t start well, “slaughtered” by Shreveport in May.19 He wound up leading the league in losses (23), hits allowed (288), runs (165), and runs per 9 innings (7.17).Still, after shutting out pennant-winning Houston on the penultimate day of the season, he was reportedly to be signed by the Cleveland Indians,20 although no record can be found of this. During the off-season, Crable and his battery mate Art Queiesser planned to open a roller-skating rink in Galveston.21 In his third year with Galveston, Crable won only ten games for the sixth-place Sand Crabs, yet allowed only 86 hits over 130 innings. Brooklyn Superbas scout Larry Sutton looked him over, and arranged for his purchase by owner Charlie Ebbets, to report at once.22
Crable made his major league debut on August 3, starting against the St. Louis Cardinals in a matchup of sixth- and seventh-place teams. He pitched five and one-third innings, allowing three runs on three hits and four walks, a wild pitch, two hit batsmen, and one strikeout. Although Crable was not credited with the win in Brooklyn’s 5-3 victory, he would have been under today’s rules. A Brooklyn newspaper said that “but for his wildness would probably have been permitted to finish the game.”23 Crable made a “good showing” in front of the fewer than 1,000 who braved the rain.24 The St. Louis Star and Times observed that “Crabble [sic] [[with]stood the awful suspense attending his debut in the big league.”25 Of note, this was Cardinals manager and catcher Roger Bresnahan’s last game pitched in the majors (predominantly a catcher, he pitched in nine big league games), and former pitcher Mal Eason’s first game behind the plate as a National League umpire.
Crable didn’t see any more action for 16 days. On August 20, he pitched the final two innings in mop-up duty in an 11-2 loss, allowing one run to the league-leading Chicago Cubs. Manager Bill Dahlen “yanked (Cy) Barger…but Cy’s relief, Crable, was due for a fusillade.”26 In early September Crable was sent by Brooklyn on option to the Rochester Bronchos of the Class A Eastern League.
During the off-season, Crable focused on a new interest. Possibly inspired by New York Giants outfielder Mike Donlin and spouse Mabel Hite’s hit one-act play titled “Stealing Home,” which had debuted in late 1908, he wrote a stage play focused on the national pastime “Twenty Minutes in the Clubhouse.” Other ballplayers, including Cap Anson,27 Christy Mathewson, Chief Meyers, and Joe Tinker, had appeared in vaudeville sketches during this off-season to make a little extra scratch, since playing another sport was prohibited in their contracts.28 Crable wrote and staged the baseball sketch himself, with a quartet called the “Four Ball Players” that originally included minor leaguers Bill Gleason, Tom Dillon, and George Robinson. He had tried to recruit Brooklyn teammate Cy Barger and scout Larry Sutton, but to no avail. The act started after the first game of a disastrous fictional doubleheader, with Crable pitching. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Crable was “batting .400 in the ‘harmony’ league.”29 The act made it all the way up to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada before the baseball season started up again.
Before the 1911 season, Brooklyn sent Crable to the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association.30 Despite “the really creditable pitching of Vaudeville artist Crable, the Texas whirlwing,” George and the Crackers fell to Nashville, 3-0, in late April.31 Atlanta waived Crable in May,32 Crackers president John Griffin contending that “Lots of players have their limits. Crable is a grand man in Class C, but will never do in Class A.”33 He then signed with the Savannah Indians of the Class C South Atlantic League, where he produced a 12-15 record. In the fall and winter, his quartet again traveled the country,34 including stops in Portland35 and San Francisco, where they “took several encores with their quartet efforts in the singing and comedy lines.”36 It was claimed that even “Germany” Schaefer applied for a job with Crable’s company.37 The troupe traveled with the Seattle-based Sullivan and Considine vaudeville circuit,38 which included a young stage comic named Charlie Chaplin.39
Back in the Texas League for 1912, Crable posted a composite 10-14 record pitching for the Fort Worth Panthers and the San Antonio Bronchos. After the season his show hit the road again, Frank Browning, a Detroit Tigers pitcher from 1910, had joined the quartet,40 which a Lancaster, Pennsylvania review hailed as “splendid comedians and good vocalists.”41
Crable signed a contract with Brooklyn of the startup United States League for the 1913 season,42 being penciled in as one of Leo Groom’s starting pitchers, along with Sam Fletcher.43 However, the franchise folded after one game. Crable then focused his full-time attention on the play, performing a July show in Meriden, Connecticut.44 By September, the show traveled to South Bend, Indiana, where the actors could “talk baseball with one hand while they sing grand opera arias with the other.”45
Crable returned to a minor league diamond in 1914, pitching again for San Antonio, tossing a July no-hitter against Dallas.46 He finished with a 17-15 record for the Bronchos. Heading into 1915, it was hoped that the 6’1” and 190-pound “giant southpaw” and Valley Junction resident, would sign with neighboring Des Moines.47 But he instead returned to San Antonio, only to be cut in mid-April. He latched on with the Shreveport Gassers, also of the Texas League, throwing five and two-thirds innings of shutout relief in his Gassers debut.48 Researched statistics show he produced a 5-6 record in 18 games.
Crable (listed as Crabble on Baseball-Reference.com), plied for the Hopewell Powder Puffs of Class C Virginia League in 1916. He started strong,49 but stumbled to a 7-12 mark over 44 games. In August he was shipped to the Richmond Climbers of the Class AA International League, where he posted a 5-5 record.50 After the season, he went to work for American Locomotive Works, before quitting to pursue vaudeville full-time.51 Hugh Bradley of “Red Sox Quartet” fame joined “the Baseball Four” troupe52 during this period,53 at stops such as Chicago54 and Fitchburg, Massachusetts.55 They even performed in Baltimore at Loew’s Hippodrome with the Montreal Royals and Orioles in the audience.56
Crable still appeared on Richmond’s reserve list heading into the 1918 season, but wound up playing for Toronto in the IL instead. His last pro game was a loss to the Orioles in the first Sunday professional game ever played in Baltimore.57 Sold to Newark, he decided instead to “get a little of the easy money offered by the teams of the Bethlehem Steel Company’s shipbuilding plants.”58 The next month, Crable played with a Sparrow’s Point team with Hugh High and Chick Fewster in the new Steel League, against teams such as the Wilmington shipyard, Fore River, Lebanon, and Bethlehem.59 His September draft registration showed him in Baltimore as a supervisor at Bartlett and Hayward foundry, with his wife living in West Des Moines, Iowa.
The 1920 census documented Crable as a boarder in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. By 1923, he was a bass singer with Billy Maine’s musical show.60 During the mid-‘20s, he performed vaudeville from New Orleans to Hollywood and everywhere in between. Frank Browning had re-joined the troupe during this time. By 1928, Jimmie Young had joined Crable, Bradley, and Gleason with their bit titled “A Breeze from the Diamond.”61 The next year, Crable brought back “Twenty Minutes in the Clubhouse” with a new cast: Bill Welsh (later replaced by Richard ‘Red’ Davenport), Bert Bowlen, and Charles Shannon. They performed in places such as Sioux City, Iowa62 and Kansas City, Missouri, among others.63
In 1930, Burleigh Grimes bought half of Crable’s production company and joined the troupe.64 Unfortunately, their tour was canceled the next year when Grimes, “of National League fame, became ill.”65 With motion pictures replacing live shows for the entertainment dollar. George returned to Nebraska and opened a cigar shop called Home Plate, in Fremont. Sadly, that summer a fire, probably set by a burglar, destroyed the shop, along with all of Crable’s baseball and stage memorabilia.66 George’s mother Rose passed away in 1938, with George’s whereabouts unknown.
In the early-to-mid 1930s, George and Musette moved to Florida and changed their names. George and Musette Crable became George and Madeline Crandel, Musette/Madeline passed away in 1948. The man formerly known as George Crable died on August 8, 1965, at the age of 80, in Lake Worth, Florida, and was cremated.
Many thanks to the perseverance and sleuthing of SABR member Bill Carle, who through meticulous research, found information on George and Musette Crable residing in Florida, and that they had changed their names!
This bio was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Norman Macht and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.
In addition to Baseball-Reference.com, Statscrew.com, and MyHeritage.com, the author used:
Carle, Bill. SABR Biographical Research Committee, November/December 2016 Report.
Laurie, Joe Jr. Vaudeville from the Honky Tonks to the Palace, (New York, Henrtholt and Company, 1953), 125-126.
Zinn, John G. “The Lure of the Footlights,” A Manly Pastime – A Baseball History Blog,” January 14, 2016 https://amanlypastime.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-lure-of-footlights.html#comment-form
1 “George Crable Batting .400 in the Harmony League,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 24, 1911: 23.
2 “La Grande to Ellensburg,” East Oregonian (Pendleton), July 28, 1905: 5.
3 “Players in City League,” Spokane (Washington) Chronicle, April 2, 1906: 5.
4 “Butte Leads Teams in Fielding,” Butte (Montana) Post, May 18, 1906: 9.
5 “Notes of Ball Players at Home and Abroad,” Anaconda (Montana) Standard, May 30, 1906: 2.
6 “Runs Come in Bunches,” Hastings (Nebraska) Tribune, June 12, 1906: 1.
7 “Win with Ease,” Grand Island (Nebraska) Independent, September 4, 1906: 1.
8 “Tucson Player is Signed by Brooklyn,” Tucson Citizen, August 3, 1910: 3.
9 “Crabble Has Come to Town,” Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, January 3, 1908: 3.
10 “Lost in One Bad Inning,” Austin American-Statesman, March 27, 1908: 1.
11 “Senators Took One,” Austin American-Statesman, April 27, 1908: 3.
12 “Crabble Is Ejected,” Austin American-Statesman, May 8, 1908: 3.
13 “Senators Play Winning Ball,” Austin American-Statesman, June 1, 1908: 3.
14 “Austin Wins in Lively Game,” Austin American-Statesman, June 7, 1908: 3.
15 “Giants Win Two Games,” Houston Post, August 9, 1908: 18.
16 “Buffaloes and Sandcrabs Each Take One at Galveston,” Houston Post, September 8, 1908: 3.
17 “City and County News Notes,” Kearney (Nebraska) Hub, September 26, 1908: 5.
18 “Will Start Dancing Class,” Kearney Hub, September 24, 1908: 3.
19 “Southpaw Crabble was Slaughtered,” (Shreveport, Louisiana) Times, May 14, 1909: 8.
20 “Houston 5-0, Galveston 3-4,” Shreveport Times, September 6, 1909: 6.
21 “Denver Drafted Quiesser,” Houston Post, September 22, 1909: 5.
22 “Crabble Was Sold,” Houston Post, July 22, 1910: 3.
23 “If Weather Allows Dodgers May Climb into Sixth Place,” (Brooklyn) Standard Union, August 4, 1910: 10.
24 “Third Straight Win for Speedy Superbas; Sixth Place Close,” Brooklyn Eagle, August 4, 1910: 20.
25 “Bresnahan, Disgusted After Three Near-Pitchers Fail, Goes to Mound Himself,” St. Louis Star and Times, August 4, 1910: 12.
26 “Cy Barger is Slaughtered by Fast Traveling Cubs,” Brooklyn Eagle, August 21, 1910: 44.
27 Robert H. Schaefer, “Anson in Greasepaint: The Vaudeville Career of Andrian C. Anson,” National Pastime: SABR Publications, Volume 28: 2008. https://sabr.org/journal/article/anson-in-greasepaint-the-vaudeville-career-of-adrian-c-anson/
28 “Superba Player in Baseball Act,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 24, 1911: 23.
29 “George Crable Batting .400 in the Harmony League,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 24, 1911: 23.
30 “Lynch Announces Releases,” Chattanooga (Tennessee) Times, January 10, 1911: 7.
31 “Nashville Shuts Out Crackers, 3-0,” (Nashville) Tennessean, April 28, 1911: 10.
32 “Crable to be Sold,” Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, May 11, 1911: 13.
33 “Heisman Negotiating for ‘Texas’ Griffin,” Montgomery (Alabama) Times, June 22, 1911: 8.
34 “A Baseball Show,” Cincinnati Post, November 10, 1911: 2.
35 “New Bills Open at the Vaudeville Houses: Empress,” Portland Oregonian, February 13, 1912: 9.
36 “Mme. Chambellan Wins at Empress,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 26, 1912: 7.
37 “Crable on Stage,” New Orleans Item, July 21, 1912: 24.
38 “Crable Desires Release from Brooklyn Team,” Kearney Hub, April 11, 1912: 2.
40 Joel Zoss and John Bowman, Diamonds in the Rough: The Untold History of Baseball (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press: 2004), 378.
41 “Big League Base Ball Stars Head Strong Bill for First Three Days,” News-Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), February 18, 1913: 3.
42 “To Start Work on Brooklyn Grounds of U.S. League,” Brooklyn Standard Union, April 11, 1913: 14.
43 “Leo Groom Has First Lineup,” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, April 8, 1913: 8.
44 “The Baseball Four,” (Meriden, Connecticut) Journal, July 28, 1913: 4.
45 “This Team Plays Baseball Game on Theater Stage,” South Bend (Indiana) News-Times, September 6, 1913: 4.
46 “Around the Texas League,” Houston Post, September 6, 1914: 17.
47 “Bill Hunter Signed to Play with Boosters, Crabble Also May Play,” Des Moises (Iowa) Tribune, February 24, 1915: 8.
48 “Schrader’s Hit in 11th Wins It for Garvin’s Gassers,” Shreveport Times, April 22, 1915: 8.
49 “Crabble Effective,” (Raleigh, North Carolina) News and Observer, May 6, 1916: 3.
50 “Richmond Gets First and Baltimore Second,” (Richmond) Times Dispatch, August 6, 1916: 29.
51 “Crable Writes Sketch and Enters Vaudeville,” Times Dispatch, October 15, 1916: 28.
52 “Amusements,” Bridgeport (Connecticut) Times, January 10, 1917: 9.
53 “Sports Talk,” Evansville Courier, January 18, 1917: 7.
54 “Theatrical Notes,” Chicago Tribune, December 29, 1917: 14.
55 “Vaudeville Last Three Days,” Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Sentinel, February 15, 1917: 9.
56 “Series with the Royals Should Help the Birds,” Baltimore Sun, June 27, 1917: 8.
57 “Birds Trim the Leafs,” Baltimore Sun, June 17, 1918: 5.
58 “Will Release ‘Red’ Fisher,” Ottawa (Ontario) Citizen, June 22, 1918: 8.
59 “Six Teams Bunched,” (Montreal) Gazette, July 23, 1918: 10.
60 “Baseball to Musical Comedy is Record of George Crable with Troupe at Majestic,” La Crosse (Wisconsin) Tribune, September 23, 1923: 14.
61 “Well-Known Baseball Players are Seen in Diamond Act,” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, September 6, 1928: 8.
62 “Orpheum Theatre,” Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, August 25, 1929: 15.
63 “Four Former Players at the Mainstreet This Week,” Kansas City Star, October 22, 1929: 14.
64 John Z., “The Lure of the Footlights,” A Manly Pastime – A Baseball History Blog,” January 14, 2016 https://amanlypastime.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-lure-of-footlights.html#comment-form
65 “Line-O-Sports,” Leigh (Nebraska) World, January 30, 1931: 2.
66 “Cigar Store Damaged by Morning Fire,” Freemont (Nebraska) Tribune, July 29, 1931: 3.