He only played in the big leagues for a month. But once a major leaguer, always a major leaguer. And no matter what came in the mail for him to autograph, Gene "Lefty" Crumling signed it and sent it back.
Crumling died at his Yorkana Borough home on Saturday at the age of 89.
A 1940 Wrighstville High School graduate, Crumling went on to play professional baseball until 1952.
His 13-year career as a catcher took him to plenty of places, including stops in the Interstate League in Hagerstown, Md., and in York with the White Roses. He also played in the International League in Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., and the American Association in Columbus, Ohio.
The experience Crumling was most fond of, though, came in 1945. That year, the St. Louis Cardinals called up Crumling for just a month to help the club as it battled the Chicago Cubs for the National League pennant. It would be the only time Crumling spent in the majors.
During a 2005 interview for an article in The York Dispatch, Crumling shared his thoughts on his first (and only) major league hit, a single, off of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jimmie Foxx (the Hall of Famer best known for slugging 534 career home runs).
"A line drive over the shortstop's head, it drove in a run," Crumling said in the article. He finished his short major league stint with one hit in 12 at-bats.
Crumling grew up along Walnut Street in Wrighstville with six brothers and a sister. His two older brothers, Bill Crumbling of Yorkana and Warren Crumbling of Austin, Texas, are the only surviving siblings from that group.
It was during Gene Crumling's early years as a youngster when he earned his nickname.
"When he was just a little guy he did everything left-handed. Then at some point when he was a kid he switched over to being a righty. But that's where he got the name 'Lefty,'" Bill Crumbling, 84, said.
Gene dropped the "b" from his last name after graduating from high school.
"He thought that would look better in print when he was in baseball," Bill Crumbling said.
Gene met his wife, Lillian, when he was playing for Hagerstown. They married in August 1941 and had a son, Joseph, the next year.
"I think she was out there for a ballgame with her parents and somehow dad ran into her and got to talking," Joseph Crumling said of his parents' first meeting.
The couple had been married for 56 years before Lillian died of emphysema in 1997 at age 74.
When his playing days were over, Crumling managed for Hagerstown and York in the Interstate League and for Wellsville, N.Y., in the New York-Penn-Ontario League. He was voted into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
After baseball, Crumling worked as a bartender until his early 70s, spending 15 years at the Washington House Restaurant in Wrightsville and then 27 years at the Kreutz Creek Valley VFW Post 7045 in Hellam.
He also continued to sign autographs for anyone who asked.
"If you just play one day in the major leagues, you're in the baseball book," Joseph Crumling said. "He still kept getting mail asking for autographs. He'd love that."
York Dispatch reporter Dick VanOlinda contrib uted to this article. Reach John Walk at 505-5406 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @JohnK Walk.