Pete Craig was a successful Minor League Baseball pitcher who briefly reached the Majors with the Washington Senators in the 1960s. He previously excelled in NCAA play, graduating from the University of Detroit as one of the school’s greatest ever pitchers.
Craig was born in Windsor on July 10, 1940.
He attended Sacred Heart Elementary School in LaSalle and Assumption High School in Windsor. Between 1953 and ’57, Craig played defence in hockey and offensive centre in football for the Purple Raiders. During his time at Assumption, he was afforded the opportunity to play hockey at Maple Leaf Gardens as the school took on a Toronto high school team. Surprisingly, Craig was twice cut from the Purple Raiders baseball team.
Craig pitched for River Canard in the Essex County Junior League in 1959 while also playing Class “A” baseball in the Detroit Federation League. He posted a combined record of 14-5 for the season.
The 1960 season saw Craig earn a tryout with the London Diamonds, but he failed to make the team’s roster. He signed with the Listowel Legionnaires in the Senior Intercounty League, instead.
Craig spent the next three years at the University of Detroit, from which he eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Trade. He enjoyed an impressive baseball career playing for the school. In 1961, he teamed up with future Chicago White Sox pitcher and Knicks and Pistons NBA star Dave DeBusschere to lead Detroit to a 19-3 season and a berth in the NCAA District Four playoffs. Craig submitted a 6-1 record as a starter and an ERA of 1.96. He kicked off the campaign with a 14-strikeout no-hitter against Alma College in his first start in NCAA baseball.
In 1962, Craig improved his record to 8-1, this time with a 2.22 ERA, as the Titans again advanced to the NCAA District Four playoffs. Craig’s final season with the Titans saw him compile a 4-1 record and 2.57 ERA. At the plate, he managed 15 hits in 36 at-bats, which was good enough for a very impressive .417 average. At his graduation, Craig was the Titans’ season and career leader in strikeouts with 103 and 219 respectively. His 2.34 career ERA was fourth all-time.
During his University of Detroit career, Craig played semi-professional summer ball in ’61 and ’62 with Winner, South Dakota in the Basin League. He led the team in wins both years.
Lou D’Annunzio of the Detroit Tigers signed Craig to his first professional contract in 1963. He began his journey to the Majors with Duluth, Minnesota in the Class “A” Northern League, posting a 7-5 record and winning the league’s ERA title with a mark of 2.51. He played alongside Denny McLain. Before the end of the season, McLain had moved up to Knoxville in the Class “AA” Southern League, where he posted a 1-1 record in limited action.
Craig was sold to the Washington Senators in March 1964. The team optioned him to Rocky Mount, North Carolina in the Class “A” Carolina League, where he led the league in complete games (20) and innings pitched (208) while compiling a 14-13 record and a 3.07 ERA that was the eighth best in the league. He played in the All-Star Game.
In August, he was called up by Washington to pitch in the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown against the New York Mets. He submitted three scoreless innings. He was a called up again in September and saw action in two games, pitching a total of two innings.
Craig was optioned to Hawaii for the 1965 season. He pitched 218 innings, struck out 154 batters, and finished the year with a 14-11 record and 3.76 ERA. The Senators called him up in September, but he lost all three of his starts.
In 1966, Craig compiled a 14-13 record for Hawaii with 233 innings pitched, 141 strikeouts, and a 3.48 ERA. He was again a September call-up, pitching in two innings. Unfortunately, a late-season rotator cuff injury permanently affected his career. He was optioned to the “AAA” Indianapolis farm team of the Cleveland Indians to start the 1967 season, and the club made little investment in the health of a player who was not its property. He requested a transfer back to Hawaii, and got it, but his injury affected his game. He finished the year, his last in professional baseball, with a combined 4-10 record, 55 strikeouts, 101 innings pitched, and a 5.50 ERA.
Ultimately, Craig played six games in the Majors, four of which were starts. Although he exited the game’s highest level with a 0-3 record and 18 total innings pitched, Craig enjoyed some memorable highlights. He faced three Hall of Famers in Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, and Carl Yastrzemski, plus high-profile players like Rocky Colavito and Dick Stuart. He started for Washington against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in 1964. On Labour Day, 1965, he took a 5-3 lead into the seventh inning in front of a large crowd at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. As a batter, he once came close to a homerun off the Yankees’ Mel Stottlemyre.
In his years with Hawaii, he tossed two one-hitters against San Diego and once hit a grand-slam against Portland. One of his teammates was Bo Belinsky.
Craig settled in Raleigh, North Carolina after his playing career. At the time of his induction, he was working for a furniture leasing company.