Pitcher Jack Creel enjoyed a 179-157, 3.37 ERA record over 15 seasons (1938-44, 1946-53) in the minor leagues. In his one season with the big league 1945 St. Louis Cardinals, Creel went 5-4 with a 4.14 ERA. Unfortunately, an arm injury stopped Creel in 1945 and he never returned to major league play.
Jack Creel’s story was a familiar one for pitchers during the 16 MLB club, reserve clause era of professional baseball. With so few openings at the top, pitchers often threw as hard or as well as they could, for as long as they could do so without complaint. “Minor” twinges in the arm were most often ignored in deference to the code of manliness, but also in fear of being passed over by some other pitcher who played the game without “complaining”.
Former Buffs outfielder, the late Jim Basso, used to put it this way for ball players in general from that day and time: “We were afraid to take time off for injuries. We were afraid of taking the time off and then coming back to find some other guy using our locker and wearing our jock strap. We just played until we couldn’t play.” For pitcher’s of Basso’s post-World War II period, his advice meant “pitch until your arm fell off and then they dragged a one-armed man from the mound and sent him back to the minors to get well doing the same things that got him hurt in the first place in the bigs.”
Sports medicine wasn’t all that great back in the day either. Pitchers relied a lot on liniments and corrective surgeries were often suspect acts of guesswork that often made things worse. After 1945, Jack Creel was 8-11, 4.19 for the AAA Columbus Redbirds before returning to Houston and posting a 14-10, 2.63 mark for the 1947 TL and Dixie Series Champion Houston Buffs. Creel had some kind of arm surgery during the 1947-48 winter and then followed that step with a 12-10, 3.52 record for the 1948 Buffs. By this time, he was 31 years old and well out of range for another shot in the prospect-rich Cardinals farm system.
Jack Creel pitched five seasons (1942, 1946-49, 1952) for the Houston Buffs, posting an overall record here of 61 wins and 47 defeats. When he was on, the native of Buda, Texas and cousin of big league hurler Tex Hughson was a hard-throwing strikeout artist who sat batters down with a wish that the game was already over. And he was a good man, just limited in accomplishment by the knowledge, conditions, and expectations of his time in the game. He rode in the boat with everyone else, however, and with much company on the “disappointed outcome” side of things. It was simply the way things were.
Jack Creel died in Houston in 2002 at the age of 86.