“Everyone was throwing that pitch,” Mike Scioscia, who caught for the Dodgers in the 1980s and later managed the Angels, told The Associated Press in 2011. “It was the pitch of the ’80s just like the pitch of the ’60s was a slider.”
Roger Lee Craig was born on Feb. 17, 1930, in Durham, N.C., one of 10 children of John and Mamie Craig. His father was a shoe salesman. He was spotted by a part-time scout for the Dodgers while pitching in high school, then signed by the team out of North Carolina State University in 1950. After pitching in the Dodgers’ minor league system and serving in the Army, Craig made his debut with Brooklyn in July 1955.
He had a 5-3 record over 21 games, 10 of them starts, then beat the Yankees in Game 5 of what became the only World Series a Brooklyn team would win. He pitched for the Dodgers again in the 1956 World Series, taking the loss in Game 3 of the seven-game series win for the Yankees.
A fastball pitcher early in his career, Craig developed arm problems that he attributed to throwing in cold and damp weather as the starter on Sept. 29, 1957, at the Philadelphia Phillies’ Connie Mack Stadium, in the final game the Dodgers played before moving to Los Angeles.
Craig was back in the minors for much of 1958 and for part of the 1959 season while rehabilitating from his injury. He never regained the speed on his fastball but when he returned to the Dodgers for good in 1959 he concentrated on getting ahead of batters in the count. That year, he revived his career as a control pitcher and had his best major league season, posting an 11-5 record while leading the N.L. in shutouts, with four, as the Dodgers won their first pennant in Los Angeles. He started twice in the World Series against the Chicago White Sox, with one loss and one no-decision in a game won by the Dodgers, who took the Series in six games.
Craig pitched mostly in relief before he was chosen by the Mets as their No. 3 selection in the October 1961 expansion draft, after catcher Hobie Landrith and infielder Elio Chacon. He was the sixth pick overall since the Mets alternated with Houston, the other new team, in the draft order.
The Mets traded Craig to the Cardinals before the 1964 season, and he won Game 4 of the World Series in relief as St. Louis beat the Yankees in seven games. He later pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and the Phillies and finished his career with a record of 74-98.