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Humm Baby Forever

Roger Craig has passed away at the age of 93, but he’s going to stick in the minds of those who grew up with him.

San Francisco, CA March 31, 1986 - S.F. Giants manager Roger Craig. (Ron Riesterer / Oakland Tribune Staff Archives) Photo by MediaNews Group/Oakland Tribune via Getty Images

Every one of us has an epoch of firsts: steps, words, San Francisco Giants manager. Roger Craig was my first, and with his passing yesterday at the age of 93, I thought it’d be appropriate to write up what he meant to me and, I suspect, others in my age cohort. This won’t be a proper obituary or even a teary recollection. I have neither the skill or sentimentality to do either, but Roger Craig made an impression on me.

Roger Craig was the 33rd manager in team history, and from 1985-1992, he led the Giants to 586 wins against 566 losses with two memorable playoff runs (1987 and 1989). He sticks in our collective memory not just because of that 1989 World Series, but because of —

San Francisco Giants Fan, 1989 World Series Photo by Mickey Pfleger/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

I was not conscious of Major League Baseball in 1985 when they lost 100 games and not really until 1988, when I remember this game where the Giants beat the Cardinals 21-2 and then when I went to my first game, but adults were laying on that Humm Baby! quick and it wasn’t until much later in life when I learned that it came from him specifically.

Yesterday, Giants’ PA announcer Renel Brooks-Moon referred to Craig (in a since deleted) tweet as her “pop-pop,” (this is the tweet that she replaced it with this morning: just a simple photo of the two of them) and it’s his grandfatherly nature that definitely impressed upon me as a 7-year old. My two grandfathers were polar opposites: one stern and distant, the other warm and present, and Craig started off on the former end of my impressionable young mind before I came to understand a little bit more about what he brought to the Giants, Humm Baby was his thing (not just something from a commercial!), and the split-fingered fastball.

I think human beings want to make their mark on the world and be remembered for something. Maybe a great many people don’t care whether that memory is positive or negative, they just want to be remembered, but I think it’s really something when your memory even while you’re alive transforms from positive to revered. Monte Poole’s recollection in a post this morning captures a bit of that while adding more context:

Craig was a rangy North Carolina native whose oblong mug seemed gently carved from sandstone. Upon speaking, there was no missing his roots. Hmm. Middle-age white southerners with a pronounced drawl, you see, need time and study to earn the comfort of a Black man from the city.

It didn’t take long for Craig to cross that bridge. [...] Craig inquired about my background and chose career path. Hometown, schools, favorite sports etc.


Craig’s eye contact was steady, his manner folksy. He asked more questions than I did. He was, from then on, Roger.

I mentioned above that one grandfather was stern and distant, but as kids we just thought people like him were “strict,” which in 2023 really does feel like just a soft way of saying “abusive,” and if I’m being honest, Roger Craig always came off to a 7 and 8-year old as “strict.” But he was far from it, and a beloved figure in the history of the franchise.

I don’t often think of this image, but from time to time when it does pop up, I enjoy it...

MLB: AUG 01 Rangers at Giants Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

... in that a man whose knowledge and vibes helped pull the Giants out of a nosedive has also made him into something of an icon but in the way that a mascot can be. “Humm Baby” is his signature line, but it encapsulated an era of Giants Baseball that almost certainly delivered it from oblivion.

So, there are no complicated feelings about Roger Craig. I had only a child’s understanding of a person I saw solely through my TV, and over time, everything I’ve ever read about or heard about the man has only made my first time with Giants Baseball all the more special. It’s always Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Robby Thompson, and Roger Craig when I think of those 80s Giants (with apologies to those who come to mind in the next wave: Jose Uribe, Mike Krukow, Kelly Downs, Mike Aldrete, and Kurt Manwaring).

I love when Kruk and Kuip talk about Craig. I think he came up in a broadcast as recently as last week in relation to he and Al Rosen changing the team’s mindset about playing in Candlestick Park — no more complaining.

It took me a long time to unlearn what I was taught in Little League that he invented the split-finger fastball, but it’s really fun to me that he — and by extension — the Giants are forever linked to that pitch:

Roger Craig and “split-finger fastball” will forever be linked in baseball history. It was Craig’s work teaching first Jack Morris and then Mike Scott how to throw the pitch that gave the former right-handed pitcher lasting fame. “People think I invented that,” Craig said. “I did not. Bruce Sutter did. I just found a way to teach it and it worked out.”

Let’s call Craig a great teacher because it’s clear that he was.

I’m not alone in thinking that everything good and bad about a group or an organization starts at the top. I never liked the “fish rots at the head” idea, I just think it makes the most sense that the leaders can lead everyone to joy or pain, and Roger Craig’s time with the Giants was exactly that.