DENVER — In his first comments after the passing of former San Diego Padres manager Roger Craig, another former Padres manager, Bud Black, paid tribute to him and the impact he had on his life as a player and manager.
San Diego Padres: Bud Black pays tribute to Roger Craig
In the dugout before the Colorado Rockies, now managed by Black, and San Francisco Giants began a three-game series at Coors Field, Black discussed the impact that Craig had had on his life. Craig passed away on Sunday at the age of 93.
"That one hit me a little bit," Black said, speaking of hearing of Craig's death. "I was close to Roger. I played for Roger for two years during my first two years in San Francisco (1991-92). I had a great relationship with him my two years there. It was his last two there and my first two there."
That relationship continued when Black took over the Padres in 2007, continuing a tradition that Craig had been a part of during his two years overseeing the team in 1978-79. During his time with the Padres, Craig compiled a 152-171 record.
"He would pop in in San Diego because he lived there at times. He would come in and we would talk, and he would send me texts as well," Black said. "Like all baseball men, he would watch games and he would make commentary. My early years in San Diego, he was a frequent visitor and a frequent texter.
"In any profession or any craft, you learn from those who came before you. Roger was one of those guys for me."
Black also discussed how Craig's influence continues today in Major League Baseball through the use of the split-fingered fastball, one of the weapons used by the 1984 Detroit Tigers pitching staff he guided as the pitching coach in their conquest of the Padres in the Fall Classic. It's still a pitch employed by pitchers today, although those pitches may go by different names now.
"He threw it, so it was easy for him to teach," Black said. "Full disclosure, he tried to teach me the split-finger a couple of months into my career in San Francisco in the bullpen at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It didn't go too well. I have smaller hands and there was an inability to really get the ball in between my index finger and middle finger."