Robert Fulton Crues
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 185 lb.
Bob Crues began his baseball career as a pitcher and went 20-5 in the West Texas-New Mexico League in his first full season, 1940. His contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox but he went just 5-5 over the next two years, never making it to AA. Crues worked in an ammunition production plant (and married a co-worker) then was drafted into the Army during World War II. He lost three years of baseball time due to his military service.
When the war ended, Crues was 28 and a non-prospect. Lots of leagues were getting started or re-started, so jobs were plentiful and talent unevenly distributed. Crues returned to the WT-NM league where he had begun and hit .341 with 29 homers and 120 RBI. It was a high-octane league and Crues wasn't dominant; he finished 5th in homers (19 behind fellow minor league legend Joe Bauman), 9th in RBI and might just have cracked the top 10 in average.
In 1947, Crues hit .380 with 52 homers and 178 RBI. He still wasn't the dominant force in a class C league. He was 6th in average, 5 homers behind leader Bill Serena and 12 RBI behind leader Serena; two others were within 5 RBI.
After being sold to the Little Rock Travelers, Crues was returned in time for the 1948 campaign. That season Crues had a record-setting year. Playing in a hitter-friendly park, he homered 69 times, tying Joe Hauser's minor league record. He also drove in 254, shattering Tony Lazzeri's pro record by 32 while playing in a shorter season. Crues also led the league with 185 runs. The Amarillo Gold Sox slugger hit .404, but didn't finish in the top 3 in the league nor was he among the top 3 in OBP despite drawing 90 walks to go with the .404. He led in slugging (.848) by 107 points, was third in hits (228) and 80 walks shy of the leader despite his high total (walks were plentiful in the pitching-weak circuit). He set what is considered to be the all-time professional record by hitting 8 grand slams that season.
That off-season Crues got an offer from the Jackson Senators but miscommunication led to his release. He also was offered a shot at appearing in the National Baseball Congress tourney but instead went to the Roswell Rockets, a new team in the Longhorn League, another offense-oriented low minor league in the southwest. His .365 was 6th in the league and his 28 homers second (just 3 ahead of Carlos Pascual, who was known more as a pitcher) and his 129 RBI fourth. Crues, after one record-shattering year, was again merely a very good player in a very weak league.
In 1950 Crues won his second home run title in the minors, clubbing 32 for the San Angelo Colts, best of anyone in the Longhorn. He hit just .251 though in an average-loving league and finished just 12th in RBI. In 1951, Crues connected for just 16 homers while splitting the season between his two primary homes of the past, the WT-NM and the Longhorn.
Crues didn't even play in 1952 and a comeback in 1953 showed that he was already washed-up. Unlike Bauman, his former teammate and the man who broke his minor league home run record in 1954, Crues had really had just one great season. Like Bauman, it took place in one of the most friendly offensive contexts in baseball history. Still, no one has come closer than 30 of Crues' record RBI title, an impressive feat not to be denied.
After retirement, Crues became an excellent competitive bowler. In 1965, he had the first of several strokes and his health declined. Sources include SABR Bioproject.