Burt Crump, one of the most well-known baseball individuals in Vienna, died the morning of Sept. 20 of natural causes. He was 91.
Crump was best known for his 28-year tenure as the summertime Vienna Post 180 baseball manager, winning two state championships, five District 17 crowns and 448 games during his runs as the team's skipper from 1978 to 2005, stepping down at age 78. There was a season when he managed games after having radiation treatments for prostate cancer earlier in the day.
"He wanted to keep going, but we had to twist Dad's arm and talk him out of managing after that last year," said Crump's son Rick, who was an assistant coach that season along with Rich Owen. "He was a lot older than us, but Rich and I decided we couldn't coach anymore, so the timing was right."
Owen coached with Crump for 13 years.
"Burt knew everyone in Vienna and beyond and everyone loved and admired Burt," said Owen, a long friend and former 13-year assistant for Crump, who continued to look after his friend. "If you didn't know Burt, you wanted to know him. He had a great life and loved baseball. His mind was still sharp, but his body was wearing out."
His mind and memory still sharp, Crump was honored and presented with a plaque for his long service this past summer during the annual July 4 District 17 American Legion all-star game at Vienna's Waters Field. His health took a turn later in the month after a fall in his home, resulting in hospital and rehabilitation stays.
Crump reentered the hospital on Sept. 17. Rick Crump said kidney issues and low blood pressure led to his eventual death.
"He got called up to the Majors," said Jim Glassman, the manager of Alexandria Post 24, who phoned Crump at least once a week even though the two had not coached against each other for years. "If you know him, you liked him, and Burt was someone you could always trust."
Mike Nielsen played for Crump in the late 1980s, winning a state championship with Post 180 in 1987. In recent years his three sons played for Post 180.
"Playing Legion ball at that point was an elite thing," Neilsen said. "Everything was a fond memory. The players all loved Burt and had so much respect for him, and we had fun. He was Legion baseball. Now, there is baseball in heaven."
Nick Good is the current Post 180 manager. He told of how Crump stayed involved with the team, addressing the squad at a dinner prior to Vienna's district and state playoff championship runs this past season, and how they listened to what he said.
"You think he put on this uniform more than 600 times as a manager and provided leadership for all of those players," Good said. "He served a big commitment to his community and country. He did a lot right."
As Nielsen and others explained, there was a time that young baseball players growing up in Vienna aspired to play Legion ball for Crump and Post 180 when they got old enough.
Bill Murphy, the longtime District 17 commissioner and friend of Crump's, couldn't help getting emotional when speaking of Crump.
"When you think of American Legion baseball in Vienna, you think of Burt Crump," Murphy said. "I will miss the guy. Even after he left as manager, Burt continued to follow the team. His heart was in baseball."
Frank Werman followed Crump as Post 180's manager.
"What strikes me about Burt was the impact he had on so many kids and people," Werman said. "There was so much give back in him, and everybody had a story about Burt."
Ray Zdancewicz coached against Crump's teams for years as an assistant coach and manager of the Falls Church Legion team.
"He was a stalwart for Northern Virginia baseball and the American Legion program, and such a good resource for all of us," Zdancewicz said. "He was a big presence."
It wasn't until Scott Rowland was named the head baseball coach at Oakton High School that he became involved with and got to know Crump, considerably his senior. Rowland would send Crump summer players from Oakton, then later regularly began meeting up with the Vienna manager for chats at the Post 180 Legion Hall, and continued to stay in touch until the end.
"If he wasn't at the Post, I'd call him up asking where he was and when he was getting there," Rowland said. "I enjoyed his companionship and talking baseball stories. He could tell them the best. He created a great thing at 180."
One of Post 180's biggest rivals has long been Springfield Post 176. Current Springfield manager Al Vaxmonsky coached against Crump many times.
"I will forever miss him," Vaxmonsky said. "He was a wonderful, wonderful, dedicated, solid person who loved the game. He knew the business, was a competitor and our teams had some great battles. Beating him was like beating three or four of those teams."
Harry Thomas remembers Crump welcoming him as a first-year manager for Falls Church Post 130 years ago.
"He was always the kindest guy to me," Thomas said. "Burt's heart was in the right place, and he never let ego get in the way."
Current Paul VI Catholic head baseball coach Billy Emerson wanted to, but never played for Crump, then later coached on his Post 180 staff.
"It's sad to see he's gone," Emerson said. "A friend and neighbor for a long time, and had a few beers with him many times. I loved the guy and always wanted to be around him. He helped me get my [high school] coaching jobs. Man, I could tell you some great stories."
Crump also was known for his annual spring-training baseball trips to Florida and pushup challenge against his players. He usually easily defeated them all, rattling off 50 or more pushups well into his 70s, with the younger players giving up long before Crump reached that mark.