By R. Alan Richardson
When you look at the greatest athletes in Morgan County history, you look for those individuals that not only excelled at their sport, but excelled above and beyond most of those before or after them. Crandall Stamps certainly makes the grade into this group, but still stands tall as a recreation coach for many years and now as an assistant/community coach on the MCHS baseball staff. His knowledge of the game and willingness to share that knowledge are obvious watching him coach over the past few years. Stamps said, “I’ve always loveD the game of baseball since the age of five when I first started playing. I just wanted to give back my knowledge and experiences to the kids and the do’s and don’ts of playing the game the right way. It’s just who I am. I want to instill it in anybody I can.”
Stamps grew up spending much of his time staying with his grandparents and Aunts near Tuscaloosa, Alabama while his mother worked, in his words, all the time. He moved to Morgan County in the seventh grade where he was introduced to long-time little league coaches Johnny Youngblood and Whitey Whitehead who got him involved in recreation baseball in Madison. From there he went into high school baseball where he first played for Mike Davis in his freshman year and later for Allen Crowley his next three years. He talked about Coach Crowley saying, “He was like the father-figure I never really had who brought me along both as a player, person, and later as an assistant coach. He had a big influence on my life.”
He talked about the best team he played on during his junior year, “We definitely had a shot at winning a state championship that season. We had all the ingredients to do it with strong pitching, hitting, and defense, but we lost to Jackson in a three-game playoff that put us out after winning the Region Championship.”
Stephen Hill talked about his teammate, “Crandall moved here from Alabama when he was about 13 or 14 and started playing recreation league baseball. He was a lefty pitcher with a nasty curve and some serious smoke. It was something players hadn’t seen anything like in Morgan County. The best thing was when he moved to Rutledge and we added him to our team. We were already pretty dominant but his addition resulted in an undefeated season for our team.”
Hill was quick to remind us of his dominance in high school saying, “He was a fierce competitor with a golden left arm. He commanded every pitch with movement, location, and velocity along with solid control that kept every batter off balance. I came back to watch him pitch after I graduated and saw him strike out 19 of 21 batters in that game. If he could have pitched every inning his junior year in the 1987 playoffs, we would have been State Champs. That’s how good he was.”
Most folks remember Stamps as that dominating pitcher, but Hill gave us a recap of how good he was at the plate as well. “Crandall had a very powerful stroke for a kid his size at about 160 pounds. I jogged the bases more than a lot of high school baseball players in my playing days. It wasn’t because I hit a homerun, but because I batted leadoff right ahead of him. He could flat out hit it.”
Stamps’ high school coach from 1985-1987 was Allen Crowley. In his first year of teaching and coaching in 1983, he saw an eighth grader who he recognized as a prospect immediately. Crowley told us, “The first time I watched him it was obvious that he was a special athlete. Secondly, it was clear that he was a competitor. If there was a challenge, he was going to compete. He wasn’t very big, but he was very strong and simply refused to lose. It didn’t matter if he was playing a PE basketball game or in football, he was going to break a sweat and make you break one too. He never backed down. What made Crandall, Crandall was that mental toughness.”
Crowley talked about Stamps durability as a pitcher, “He never had arm problems. He struck out 132 batters in about 100 innings his senior year in fewer games than are played today and hit 32 homeruns over that same time span. As he matured and went into his senior year, I saw the most durable pitcher I’ve ever seen.” Stamps endured a knee injury playing football his sophomore year. If not for that, he would have set a homerun record and strikeout record that would never be touched in most fans’ minds. He was also a quarterback, running back, and wide receiver on the football team.
The 47-year-old played first base, pitched, and played the outfield but, according to Crowley, could have played any position on the field and excelled at it. “Crandall developed a fastball, curve, and changeup that were almost unhittable at times his senior year.”
After his senior year, Stamps was only one of six pitchers selected to the Georgia North-South All-Star Game. He came into the game late in a tough situation and slammed the door striking out five of the six best hitters in the state in the seventh and eighth innings to earn the MVP of this prominent event. Crowley said, “It was the highest award a high school player can get in the post-season. I was sitting there watching that performance like a proud Papa watching him fire that tater and getting good hitters out. That trophy he got was as tall as my truck.”
At the All-Star game Stamps was thinking it was his last game as a baseball player. However, after the game Georgia College head coach John Kurtz approached him about coming to play for the Colonials. He had been clocked at 87 miles per hour on his fastball. “Coach Kurtz asked me after the game what my plans were. I told him that I didn’t have any plans. He offered me a partial scholarship to the NAIA school where I played for them that fall, spring, and the next fall.”
After that Stamps returned home to help his Mom and went to work. He wanted to feed his habit and love for the game when he was approached by Head Baseball Coach David Wilson in the spring of 1995. “He gave me my first opportunity coaching at the high school level. I probably should have gone into coaching and teaching, but it didn’t work out that way. I later coached with Shane Davis and then with Coach Crowley.” said Stamps.
“The thing I’m most proud of about Crandall is watching him grow into the man he is today. He’s a family man and community guy who has given back and sacrificed for his family and children. Some of the best times of my life were when he came back and we spent time together with him as my assistant coach at Morgan County,” said Crowley.
There’s no doubt that Crandall Stamps belongs in the club of Morgan’s Finest Athletes.