Local man who had chance to play in Negro Leagues, worked for NASA turns 102

Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 10:00 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - In 1948, north St. Louis native Nate Crump had a big life decision to make, play in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs or go to college.

In college, he hoped to fulfill his dream of being a scientist. While most may have chosen athletics, what Crump heard about life on the road playing in the Negro Leagues made the decision for him.

“I had a friend who played with the Monarchs,” says Crump. “And he was telling me all about the situation when they played in little towns. And we couldn’t go to the hotels or anything like that. So if somebody in the town didn’t take you in, then you slept on the bus.”

While there were unknowns with the life of a Negro League baseball player, that life did have its highs. While playing with the Monarchs in exhibition games one summer, he got to play against Cardinals legend Dizzy Dean’s Barnstorming Team. A moment he shared with Dizzy was one he never forgets.

“Dizzy Dean took Elston (Howard) and me aside, put his arm around us,” Crump remembers. “I looked up at him and he’s a big guy. One of the things that he was doing was telling us not to be nervous.”

This past week, Crump celebrated his 102nd birthday. And all these years later, he believes he made the right move. Crump would go on to work for NASA, where he helped with multiple well-known space flight missions.

“I worked about 20-something years in the space program. And I came in at the tail end of the Mercury program, which was number one and Gemini,” he said.

While his decision of academics over athletics was more than 70 years ago. Crump still stresses the importance of academics to the young athletes of today.

“As the times go on now, it’s going to be even harder for them to get ahead if they don’t have academics or have a degree in something,” he said.