The village of Coldwater in Mercer County lost one of its icons late last month with the passing of Maurice “Mauri” Cron at age 84. I knew and admired him, and made an interesting discovery as I examined the many accomplishments and affiliations in his obituary.
I was familiar with his business, civic, and political ventures but had no idea he’d played minor league baseball for the Cincinnati Reds in 1957 and 1958, prompting an investigation via my “go to” resource of baseball-reference.com.
The comprehensive website quickly delivered his career summary along with the links to provide context. For two seasons, Mauri pitched for the Graceville Oilers of the class “D” Alabama-Florida League. I was not familiar with either the league or the team. I Googled “Graceville” and found it to be in the eastern Florida panhandle near Tallahassee.
Though minor league classifications were very different back then, it is accurate to say that the Reds had many more affiliates than today, which was true throughout the major leagues. There were several levels where Cincinnati had multiple clubs including class “D.” There were often many changes from year to year.
Specifically in 1957, Graceville is shown as number 12 in the 13 team hierarchy of the Reds farm system. By comparison the Reds list eight affiliates here in 2020, though all are currently inactive during the pandemic.
The Cincinnati feeder system was a far flung empire in 1957-58 with the top two entries in Seattle, Washington and Havana, Cuba. Today the Reds top minor operations are in Louisville and Chattanooga, both within an easy drive of Cincinnati.
I then wondered if Cron had played with any future Reds, perhaps even one who had become a star. I didn’t recognize a single name on Graceville’s 1957 or 1958 rosters, reinforcing the reality that it’s very tough to make it to the big leagues much less become a star.
Mauri showed some promise in 1957 but his 1958 ledger spelled the end of his baseball dream. He returned to Coldwater to become a visible, active, and valued contributor to both town and region. It was my pleasure to know him. I just wish we could have spent some time reminiscing about his saga of baseball and bus rides with the Graceville Oilers.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross has followed the Cincinnati Reds for over 60 years.