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Samuel Byrem “Red” Crane’s life was one of extremes. Born on September 13, 1894, in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, he achieved the pinnacle of his chosen profession early in his adult life, playing seven seasons in Major League Baseball. He played for the Philadelphia Athletics, 1914–16, and the Washington Senators, 1917, before a two-year hiatus in the minor leagues, 1918–19. He returned to MLB, first with the Cincinnati Reds, 1920–21, and then with the Brooklyn Robins (later named the Dodgers), 1922. Crane was known primarily as a slick-fielding shortstop but was a light hitter. His MLB career was over by early May 1922, but he played again for various minor league teams, 1923–27. Following the end of his professional baseball career, Crane again captured the public’s attention in an entirely different and less reputable way.

On August 3, 1929, following a continuous four-or-five-day drinking binge, Crane and a few buddies walked into Bria’s Hotel at the corner of Second and Washington streets in Harrisburg at approximately 11:40 p.m. Crane noticed that his ex-girlfriend, Della Lyter, was sitting at the bar with three other people, including John D. “Jack” Oren, whom she had started seeing after she broke up with Crane. Crane pulled a pistol from his pocket and shot Lyter twice. Oren attempted to hit Crane over the head with a ukulele but received two bullets from Crane for his trouble. The bartender hit Crane over the head with a beer spigot multiple times, knocking him to the ground, and then called the police. In the tumult of the scene, Crane got up and walked away from the premises unnoticed. About three hours later, he showed up at a local police station and turned himself in, still inebriated. He was placed in county jail until the time of his trial and sentencing.

Both Lyter and Oren died from their gunshot wounds. Crane was tried in the Dauphin County Court and was found guilty of second-degree murder, receiving a combined sentence of a minimum of 18 years and a maximum of 36 years. He was sent to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia on April 16, 1930, and was received as prisoner number C-6131, shown here on a page of the prison population records, now held in the Pennsylvania State Archives (RG-15.52, Bertillon Hand Books).

Crane also spent time at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County during the period of his incarceration. Connie Mack (1862–1956), Crane’s first MLB manager, visited him while he was in prison and wrote letters on his behalf to his parole boards. Mack promised that if Crane was paroled, he would be looked after.

Crane was paroled on September 26, 1944. Mack kept his promise and offered Crane a job on the Shibe Park grounds crew, but Crane found a better paying job. He first worked on the Philadelphia waterfront and then as a bartender during his time on parole. He also began living with a woman named Edith Mercer, whom he eventually married, and the couple had two children. His parole was commuted on October 21, 1953, which made him a completely free man. He died at the age of 61 at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia on November 11, 1955, from a metastatic carcinoma involving his pancreas and liver.

Richard C. Saylor is an archivist for the Pennsylvania State Archives and author of the award-winning book Soldiers to Governors and numerous articles on military, political and sports history.