Two popular amusements at the turn of the twentieth century—staged locomotive collisions and baseball—came together in the life of Crush Holloway. As the story goes, Holloway’s father went to see the Crash at Crush, only to be informed at the event that his wife had gone into labor. He named his son, born the next day, after the train collision, and the child would go on to a successful career as a baseball player in the Negro Leagues. Though debated, it’s likely that “Crush” was the name the ballplayer received at birth rather than earned during his career.
Crush Christopher Columbus Holloway was born the eldest son of Thomas and Dora Holloway in Hillsboro, Texas, on September 16, 1896. The family moved just outside of Waco near Downsville when Holloway was a young boy. Holloway’s father was a teacher and cotton farmer. As the first son, Holloway felt the brunt of his family’s life as cotton farmers and, as a result, developed a strong dislike for the work. Baseball proved an escape. Holloway frequented sandlots around town on Sundays to play games until dusk, and during the week he worked on his swing using a broomstick and pebbles. The boy idolized players like John Franklin “Home Run” Baker and Ty Cobb. When not playing ball or working in the cotton fields, Holloway likely attended the Mt. Pleasant School in Downsville.
Holloway desired to leave Waco, and baseball eventually served as his ticket. Though he was drafted and wanted to serve in World War I, the conflict ended before he could do so. In 1919, a local businessman approached Holloway to join the Waco Black Navigators. However, the Black Navigators struggled in their inaugural season in the Texas Colored League. When they moved to San Antonio and became the Black Aces, Holloway followed. After playing alongside future Hall of Famer Biz Mackey in Waco and San Antonio, Holloway received the invitation to join him in the Negro National League and play for the Indianapolis ABCs in 1921. Holloway changed from second base to left field, and during his first season he batted a laudable .323. His aggressive base running with sharpened cleats earned him both fear and admiration from fellow players. By the end of his three seasons with the ABCs, Holloway earned a modest $150/month—approximately $2,300 today. Likely a salary dispute propelled Holloway to move to the Baltimore Black Sox in 1924.
Holloway spent the majority of his professional career in Baltimore, and he chose to return there after his retirement. For eight years he played in the Black Sox outfield. Over that time, he batted a solid .274. The Black Sox also regularly played against the white International League Baltimore Orioles, proving competitive, sometimes even superior. Sent to the Hilldale Daisies in 1929, Holloway spent the latter half of his career bouncing from club to club with stints on the Detroit Stars and Newark Eagles. Additionally, Holloway barnstormed in the offseason throughout his career. He retired in 1937 and settled in Baltimore. He worked odd jobs and eventually opened a tailor shop with Buelah, his wife since 1921. In the 1940s and 50s, to supplement his income, Holloway umpired local black baseball games and was a member of the Negro Professional Umpires Association. His love of baseball remained throughout his life.
Crush Holloway died in Baltimore from cancer on June 24, 1972. Though he fell into popular obscurity, baseball enthusiasts, scholars, and players kept Holloway’s memory alive. He enjoyed a statistically average career but made an impression through his base running. Holloway embodied the quick, assertive, and daring play that characterized much of black baseball. He, like so many other black players, excelled despite segregation and helped change the sport. Crush Holloway took his game from the cotton fields of Waco all the way to the big leagues.