September 21 - Burt Crump, a Northern Virginia baseball icon who managed Vienna Post 180 from 1978-2005, passed away yesterday. He was 91.
Crump led Post 180 to 448 victories, six district championships and two state titles in his 28-year tenure, coaching dozens of players who went on to play at the collegiate and professional levels. A veteran of World War II, he coached with the Vienna Babe Ruth League prior to becoming the American Legion club’s manager.
“Burt was one of those fans of baseball, he loved the game,” said Frank Werman, who succeeded Crump as Post 180’s manager. “The thing that hit me over the years was how many lives he impacted. He had so many connections, and so many kids played with him and benefitted from being around him.”
Crump’s best teams came during a decade-long stretch beginning in the early-80s, including a five-year stretch from 1987-91 when his teams eclipsed 20 wins each summer. He led Vienna to state titles in 1987 and 1990, when they set a post record with 31 victories. Post 180’s next title didn’t come until this past summer, when they matched that record for wins under manager Nick Good.
Among the best players to suit up for Crump included Chris Burr, Jim McNamara and Mike Nielsen. Burr went on to earn Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year honors at George Mason and was drafted by the Texas Rangers. McNamara starred at N.C. State and later reached the big leagues with the San Francisco Giants, and Nielsen had a standout career at Brigham Young and has had three sons follow him as players at Madison, with Post 180 and at BYU.
Other standouts to play for him were Stacen Gant, who later set the career victories record at George Mason, and Keith Werman, who reached the College World Series with Virginia and is now a member of the San Diego Padres’ coaching staff. Two current area high school head coaches, Chantilly’s Kevin Ford and Oakton’s Justin Janis, also played for him, and Paul VI Catholic’s Billy Emerson served as an assistant under him in the mid- and late-90s.
“The thing that impressed me the most about him is he didn’t get paid to coach, he volunteered all those years,” said Centreville coach Scott Rowland, who while the coach at Oakton had a number of his players spend their summers with Crump. “He loved kids, the game and the American Legion program, and he tried to provide a first-class environment for the kids that played for him.”
Helping to provide that environment was his younger brother, Ray, who was a longtime equipment manager with the Minnesota Twins and helped outfit his brother’s Post 180 teams. Ray Crump passed away last October at 81. And perhaps the biggest of his supporters during his countless hours spent on a baseball field was his wife of 60 years, Ruth, who passed away in October 2016.
After retiring from coaching, Crump remained interested and involved in the game, even into his 90s - “I just saw him not too long ago, and he wanted to talk about the [Washington] Nationals,” Rowland said. - and he was a regular over the years at Post 180 games, including when he was honored at this July’s All-Star Game at Waters Field. Werman said his predecessor eagerly followed Vienna this past summer as it snapped the post’s state championship drought. “I think it was a great thing for him that Vienna finally won that state championship,” he said.
It was shortly after attending this year’s Legion All-Star Game, however, that Crump’s health took a turn for the worse. A fall in his home led to multiple stays in the hospital, the last one beginning on Monday. His eventual cause of death was kidney issues and low blood pressure, the Sun-Gazette Newspapers first reported.
“It’s with deep sadness we have learned today of the passing of former American Legion Post 180 Manager Burt Crump,” Post 180 wrote on its Twitter page. “Tremendous service to our community. Our prayers go out to the family.”
Photo of Burt Crump courtesy of Vienna Post 180