By Michael LeCompte
In the late nineteenth century “crashes” where two old locomotives were sent speeding into each other for recreation, were commonplace. The collisions offered spectacle and excitement.
On September 16, 1896 a man was awaiting a “crash” when someone told him his wife was in labor at the hospital. The man raced to the hospital in time to witness the birth of his son and named him Crush Christopher Columbus Holloway, after the sound the two colliding trains would make.
From humble beginnings Crush Holloway would go on to have a 16 year Negro League career and become one of the most feared and respected base stealers in all of baseball, white or black.
Crush grew up on a cotton farm in Waco, Texas and played baseball every Sunday, usually two or three games on the one day of the week that there weren’t farm chores to do. Though often playing with homemade equipment, their baseballs were a mass of twine and tape, Crush honed his skills by hitting rocks in his family’s cotton fields with a broomstick for a bat.
Crush’s father depended on him to help run the farm and while he was always loyal, he also sought any way off the farm he could. During World War I he tried to join the Army, but the quota of enlisted men from his home county in Texas had already been filled.
In 1919 when Crush was 21 he finally made it off the family farm when he began his professional baseball career with the San Antone Black Aces and he never looked back. After two years with the Black Aces in the otherwise all-white Texas League he went east and began a career in the Negro League that would include stints with teams in Indianapolis, Baltimore, New York, and Detroit.
Standing an even six feet tall and weighing 180 pounds Holloway was a slick fielding outfielder, but was best known for his ferocious, aggressive base running. Known to sharpen his spikes before games, Crush would then slide in fast, spikes high. (Although statistics are incomplete Holloway led the entire Negro League in stolen bases at least once).
Speaking about the state of baseball in 1969, as chronicled in John Holway’s Voices From the Great Black Baseball Leagues, Crush’s comments still ring true today, “baseball’s so gentlmanfied now…they don’t play it now like they used to. We played with the heart. Today they play it for money. They don’t hustle like they used to. We’d do everything to win.”
Following his successful and memorable baseball career, in which he compiled a .294 batting average, Holloway moved to Baltimore and ran a small tailor shop until his death from cancer in 1972.