The Braves won the National League pennant in 1957 and 1958, defeating the Yankees in the World Series the first time and losing to them the next. They finished a close second to the Dodgers in 1956 and again in 1959.
Crandall was a team leader early on and seemed a natural behind the plate. “When I was in the fifth grade,” he told The Boston Globe when he made his Braves debut in mid-June 1949, “the coach of our team threw a mask at me, and I’ve had it ever since.”
Delmar Wesley Crandall was born on March 5, 1930, in Ontario, Calif., and grew up in Fullerton, where his parents, Richard and Nancy, worked in citrus packing. The Braves signed him out of high school in 1948.
During his rookie season, the Braves flew his parents to Boston to see him play in the majors for the first time. Batting early in the game, he was ejected by umpire Jocko Conlan for disputing strike calls.
“My parents had just sat down,” Crandall recalled in Larry Moffi’s oral history “This Side of Cooperstown” (1996). “As I’m walking to the dugout I see my mother’s face. She had her mouth open and her eyes were wide. That was the kind of brashness or cockiness that I possessed, and might have been a bad quality had it not been suppressed to a degree after I got to the big leagues.”
Johnny Antonelli, a Braves left-hander who, like Crandall, was 19 years when they were teammates in 1949, recalled how Crandall’s intensity could irritate the older players.
“Del was a leader as a rookie,” Antonelli, who died last year, told Danny Peary for his oral history “We Played the Game” (1994). “He’d wake up the senior citizens by firing the ball around the infield. He liked to hear chatter around the diamond when he was catching, and one day he gunned the ball down to third” — after which Bob Elliott, a seasoned third baseman, warned, “Don’t do that again, kid.”