August 17, 1947: After Woody Crowson dies in bus accident, Greensboro and Raleigh play in his honor

This article was written by Andrew Harner

Woody Crowson (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)Stretched out across a seat near the rear of his minor-league team’s bus, Woody Crowson hoped to relax on the ride back home after he watched his Greensboro Patriots teammates drop a tough Class C Carolina League game to the last-place Martinsville Athletics on August 13, 1947.

It had been over two years since Crowson made his sole major-league appearance, with the Philadelphia Athletics on Opening Day of the 1945 season, but at age 28, it was fair to assume the nine-year minor-league veteran had a chance to make it back to the big leagues—even if just for another short stint. He had pitched eight innings in a no-decision the night before against the Durham Bulls and figured to be back on the mound for the next homestand, when the dependable right-hander would try to improve his 12-13 season’s ledger.

But as Greensboro third baseman James “Sheepy” Lamb—who doubled as the team’s bus driver—traversed a curve on a downgrade through the dark roads of North Carolina just before midnight, a melon delivery truck sideswiped the bus in Mayoden.1 The impact sent Crowson from his seat and knocked him unconscious.

None of the other 14 passengers aboard the bus suffered major injuries, nor did the melon truck driver, Steve Laney. But the vehicles collided precisely where Crowson was sleeping, causing him to receive the full brunt of the impact. He suffered a compound skull fracture and extensive brain trauma. Crowson succumbed to his injuries a few hours later at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro.

“Woody was one of our best players,” said manager Charlie Carroll. “He was well liked by all the players and was a fine team man. He was always ready to go into the game at any time and do his share in winning the game.”2

In Crowson’s memory, the next home game for the Patriots, on Sunday, August 17, at War Memorial Stadium, was dubbed Woody Crowson Day, with proceeds supporting his widow, Ruth. approximately $1,500 was donated to her, as was another $684 raised by the crowd of 3,431.

On the field, rainy weather resulted in a 3-3 tie between Greensboro and the visiting Raleigh Capitals—who lodged a protest after action was halted in the top of the sixth inning.

Umpire Bob Vickers called off the game 65 minutes after the downpour began. There had been “30 or 40 minutes of debate after the rain had ceased”3 before Vickers made the decision, which drew a protest from Raleigh manager Ray Thomas.4 The field was described as more suitable for a “row boat race” than baseball, but Thomas’s protest was not unexpected, as a home run by third baseman Bill Nagel in the top of the sixth—and a potential win for Raleigh—was wiped out.5 Nagel took the first pitch he saw and sent it through drops of rain over the left-field fence, but after an out was recorded, the rain intensified, play was stopped, and the long delay ensued.

The protest from Thomas claimed that the Greensboro club did not make enough effort to keep the field in proper playing condition once the rain began.

It had been a tight ballgame before the delay, highlighted by plenty of early scoring.

Raleigh second baseman Glenn Lockamy sent the first pitch from Bernie Keating to center for a single to open the game, and after right fielder Johnny Carenbauer sacrificed Lockamy to second, first baseman Dave Baxter hit the ball over the right-field scoreboard for a 2-0 lead. Catcher Harry Sullivan reached on a single, and after Nagel reached on an error by shortstop Matthew Topkins (the only miscue of the game), left fielder Marvin Lorenz drove Sullivan home with the fourth hit of the inning.6

In the bottom of the first, Lamb singled but was put out trying to extend the hit into a double, which was the first of his three hits in the abbreviated game. Center fielder Don Butzer followed with a clean double and left fielder Cecil Lawing doubled as well for Greensboro’s first run. Right fielder Emo Showfety made it four hits in a row with a single that deflected off pitcher Red Benton’s glove to put runners on the corners, and first baseman Buck Desorcy’s fly ball and second baseman Ray Silbernagel’s single each brought home a run to tie the score at 3-3.

There was no additional scoring until Nagel’s homer in the sixth.

The next day, the Carolina League president, Dr. Thomas S. Wilson, disallowed the protest of the game, but even with that setback, Raleigh made the most of the night’s doubleheader. The Capitals got an “iron man performance” of two complete games from starter Ray Hardee in a pair of dominating victories—a seven-inning 8-0 decision in the first game and a nine-inning 7-1 win in the second game.7 Hardee allowed just six hits throughout the night to improve to 16-10 for the season.

Raleigh boosted its record to 68-52 with the wins, and the Capitals remained solidly in third place in the standings behind Winston-Salem and Burlington. By season’s end, Raleigh was still in third at 81-60 to make the four-team playoff. The Capitals claimed their second straight league championship by knocking off Durham in the championship series, 4 games to 2, after having defeated Burlington in the semifinals, 4 games to 3.

Greensboro fell to 55-63 with the doubleheader losses. The Patriots were fifth in the standings, which is where they closed the season with a 65-75 mark.8

Crowson’s major-league cup of coffee came on April 17, 1945, when he came in for three innings of relief during Philadelphia’s 14-8 season-opening loss to the Washington Senators.

Manager Connie Mack—in his 45th season at the helm in Philadelphia—had hoped Crowson would become the number-7 pitcher on his roster. Crowson earned a look in spring training after he went 12-6 with a 2.41 ERA for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League in 1944. He was a late arrival to spring training on March 25 after treating a kidney ailment, but performed well enough to make the roster.9

On Opening Day, he came into the game in the sixth inning at Shibe Park looking to keep the Senators from adding to their 10-2 lead. He allowed a pair of runs over three innings of work, but made up for one at the plate, earning an RBI on a run-scoring fly in the bottom of the seventh.

Crowson wouldn’t pitch again for Philadelphia before he was released back to Toronto on May 1. He pitched in New York for the Class A Albany Senators and for the Memphis Chickasaws (Double-A) in 1946 before joining Greensboro for the tragic 1947 season.



This article was fact-checked by Kurt Blumenau and copy-edited by Len Levin. Special thanks to the staff at the Greensboro Public Library for providing local newspaper coverage that was used in this article.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted the,, and websites for pertinent materials and the box scores noted below. He also used information obtained from game coverage by the Greensboro Daily News and Greensboro Record.



1 The watermelon truck was owned by former major-league standout Van Lingle Mungo. “Van Mungo-Owned Truck Figured in Crowson Crash,” The Sporting News, August 27, 1947: 35.

2 Earle Hellen, “Crowson Fatally Injured in Accident Last Night,” Greensboro Record, August 14, 1947: 6-B.

3 Moses Crutchfield, “Pats and Caps Play to 3-3 Deadlock,” Greensboro Daily News, August 18, 1947: 2.

4 Like Crowson, Thomas played in only one major-league game. That came with the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 22, 1938, when he went 1-for-3 with a run scored in a 12-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

5 Crutchfield.

6 Sullivan was the runner-up in league MVP voting, losing out to future major-league pitcher Harvey Haddix of Winston-Salem.

7 Moses Crutchfield, “Ray Hardee Pitches Two Raleigh Victories Over Patriots,” Greensboro Daily News, August 19, 1947: 2.

8 Greensboro finished percentage points above sixth-place Danville, which went 65-77.

9 Stan Baumgartner, “Mirror Helped Athletics’ Pruett,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 21, 1945: 28.

Additional Stats

Greensboro Patriots 3
Raleigh Capitals 3
5 innings

War Memorial Stadium
Greensboro, NC

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