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Henry 'Shag' Crawford, 90; was longtime NL umpire

Shag Crawford, calling out future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson at the plate at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Shag Crawford, calling out future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson at the plate at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. (1959 ap file)

NEW YORK -- As a sandlot catcher, Henry Crawford was too busy playing ball to worry about the clothes he wore off the field. As a result, his pals gave him a nickname -- "Shaggy."

Later, it got shortened and the new version stuck. From the 1950s through the 1970s, everyone in baseball knew Shag Crawford.

A longtime National League umpire whose two sons became prominent in sports officiating, Mr. Crawford died Wednesday at an assisted living facility in suburban Philadelphia. He was 90.

"Let's just say some of the things he put on weren't always of the finest quality. He had things with holes in them; it didn't bother him," son Jerry said yesterday.

"He liked when people called him Shag. I think he'd want that on his tombstone as his middle name," he said. "He liked that handle."

In 1976, Jerry Crawford became a major league umpire. The next year, his brother, Joey, started working as an NBA official.

"Shag was very proud of what he did," New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who played in the National League during most of Mr. Crawford's career, said yesterday.

"Evidently his kids were pretty proud of what he did because they took after him."

It certainly had an effect.

"When we were young, my brothers and my sister would go watch my dad work. I'm sure that had something to do with what we did," Jerry Crawford said.

Growing up, Shag Crawford played baseball, football, and boxed a little. He eventually made it into the minor leagues as a catcher in the Philadelphia Phillies' system.

Mr. Crawford apparently was better at calling pitches than hitting them. Known for getting in a low crouch and resting his hands on the back of the catcher in front of him, he umpired more than 3,100 games from 1956 to 1975.

Mr. Crawford worked the World Series three times and the NL championship series twice, and he handled three All-Star games.

"He hung on to me when he was calling balls and strikes. Similar to what Jerry did, too. Shag, he was right on top of the catcher," said Torre, an All-Star catcher in the 1960s.

"You had relationships with these umpires back in those days because it split National League and American League. He had a little bit of a short fuse from time to time, but he was pretty consistent," he said. "That's really all you wanted from an umpire."

In the 1969 World Series between Baltimore and the New York Mets, he ejected Orioles manager Earl Weaver in Game 4.

Weaver, who came out to argue after contending Frank Robinson was hit by a pitch, became the first manager to be tossed from a World Series game in 34 years.

Mr. Crawford, one of the founders of the umpires' union, ended his active career in 1975 after getting into a dispute with baseball over the rotation of umpires in the World Series.

Mr. Crawford, who brought up his family in the Philadelphia area, worked the first game at Veterans Stadium in 1971. He stood with son, Jerry, at home plate when the lineup cards were presented before the final game at the ballpark in 2003.

A funeral Mass will be said Monday in Havertown, Pa.