Clifford Leon Crowder, age 94, passed away in Siloam Springs, Arkansas September 8, 2022.
Cliff was born on July 29, 1928, in Liberal, Kansas to Rolla and Ola Mae (ne Lusk) Crowder. He was the youngest of 8, with 2 sisters and 5 brothers. He grew up on a farm about 12 miles north of Liberal. In 1938, at the age of 9, after the ravages of the dust bowl, the family left Kansas and moved back to his parent’s home state of Illinois, to the small town of Hammond. In Hammond, Cliff was a standout in baseball, basketball, and track.
In 1946, after he graduated from high school, he joined the Navy and served 2 years. Upon release from the Navy, he moved to Taft, California, where his oldest brother lived. In Taft, Cliff was hired by the Standard Oil Company as they needed him on the Company baseball team. While playing catcher for the team he caught eye of a pretty blond, Beverly Flippen. Soon Cliff and Beverly were a couple. They married on March 10, 1950. By February 1953, they had 2 children, Robbie and Linda. A few years later, daughter Jan joined the family.
While at Standard Oil, Cliff worked in the warehouse while also officiating baseball and basketball games at the local leagues. He was a standout softball player for local teams in an area that was well known for softball excellence.
In 1961, wanting to do something more rewarding, he decided to start a summer baseball camp. He quit his job and with the savings from ten years at Standard, he negotiated a lease on unused property at the California Baptist Theological Seminar in Covina and promptly began building 2 Little League size baseball diamonds. A few weeks before the camp was ready to open the applications were not coming as fast as expected. Cliff decided he needed a partner- one with name recognition. After looking at the LA Dodgers roster, he landed on the name of Wally Moon, the Dodgers best hitter and left fielder. He went to Wally’s house and introduced himself and asked if Wally would join him in this venture. Soon, Wally Moon’s Summer Baseball camp was born. It was a great success, with players such as Brooks Robinson coming to the camp to give lessons. When Wally retired at the end of 1965 season, it was decided to move the camp to Arkansas, Wally’s home state. The camp was relocated to the John Brown University campus in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. However, as access to Northwest Arkansas was difficult in 1966, the camp closed after the 1966 sessions.
That did not matter much to Cliff as by then Wally had become the head baseball coach and athletic director at John Brown University and Cliff has become the assistant baseball coach, head track coach, and Dean of Men. Cliff worked in those positions for 12 years, long enough to see his 3 kids through college.
He next opened several other businesses, finally settling on a company he called Best Tools, Inc. Cliff designed, built, and sold products, known as “lockout tools for vehicles” under the Best Tools name. He and Beverly enjoyed several years of traveling around the country to various conventions where Cliff would set up a booth and sell his products. He would also sell the products as they traveled the country, cold calling on establishments he thought were likely customers- and normally they were.
After his beloved wife of 62 years died in 2012, Cliff turned his business over to Jan and retired, at the age of 85, to play golf, where he was known by the name of “Creamy” for the way he creamed (powered) his drives; and also to play cards with his buddies at the golf course.
Cliff is survived by son, Rob (Laurie) Crowder of Tulsa, OK; daughter, Linda (Ron) Teasley of Gravette, AR ; daughter, Jan (Steve) Wiles of Gentry, AR and his loving companion, Glenita Guthrie, Westville, OK. He leaves behind 5 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren and several loving family members.
Donations in his memory can be made to John Brown University Athletic Scholarship Fund, 2000 W. University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.