- OF, 1B
- Wahoo Sam
- April 18, 1880
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-10-1899 with CIN
- Hall of Fame:
Playing alongside Ty Cobb in the Detroit Tigers outfield for 13 seasons undoubtedly deprived Sam Crawford of much of the recognition he otherwise would have received during his Hall of Fame career. Nevertheless, Crawford is generally considered to be one of the Dead-ball Era's greatest sluggers, and one of the premier players of the first two decades of the 20th century. The first player ever to lead both major leagues in home runs, Crawford is also baseball's all-time leader in triples, with 309 three baggers to his credit.
Born on April 18, 1880 in Wahoo, Nebraska, Samuel Earl Crawford starred in baseball, football, and track and field at Wahoo High School, leading the school to consecutive state football championships 1896 and 1897. Upon graduation, he joined a traveling baseball team in Wahoo that challenged local clubs to games and paid its expenses by passing around a hat. After being offered an opportunity to play for the Chatham Reds of the Canadian League for $65 per month in the spring of 1899, Crawford left behind his job as a barber's apprentice. The outfielder spent the first few months of the season with Chatham, before joining the Grand Rapids Rustlers of the Western League. Grand Rapids sold Crawford to the National League's Cincinnati Reds in September of 1899, and he made his major league debut with the team on September 10th of that year, batting .307 in 31 games with the club, knocking in 20 runs, and hitting the first home run of his career.
EARLY YEARS IN NATIONAL LEAGUE & JUMP TO AMERICAN LEAGUE:
Crawford became Cincinnati's starting right-fielder the following year, placing among the league leaders with seven home runs and 15 triples. He developed into a star in his second full season, leading the National League with 16 home runs in 1901, batting .330, and finishing near the top of the league rankings with 104 runs batted in and 16 triples. A record 12 of Crawford's 16 homers were of the inside-the-park variety. He also holds the career record with 51 inside-the-park home runs.
After another solid season in 1902 in which he led the National League with 22 triples and finished among the leaders with a .333 batting average and a .461 slugging percentage, Crawford elected to jump to the Detroit Tigers of the rival American League, which had its inaugural season in 1901. The left-handed-hitting outfielder had an outstanding year in 1903, driving in 89 runs, placing second in the league with a .335 batting average, and topping the circuit with 25 triples. Crawford's performance slipped somewhat over the next three seasons, with the slugger failing to bat over .300, knock in more than 75 runs, or compile more than 16 triples in any of those campaigns. Yet, he remained one of baseball's most feared batsmen, retaining his reputation as one of the game's hardest hitters.
ONE OF GAME'S GREAT PLAYERS:
Fielder Jones, a contemporary of Crawford, said, "None of them can hit quite as hard as Crawford. He stands up at the plate like a brick house and he hits all the pitchers, without playing favorites."
Ed Barrow, who managed Crawford in the outfielder's first two years in Detroit, and later converted Babe Ruth to a full-time outfielder as general manager of the Yankees, once said that "there was never a better hitter than Crawford."
More than just an outstanding hitter, Crawford was also a fine base runner and an excellent fielder in his prime. He stole 367 total bases during his career, and he led all American League outfielders with a .988 fielding percentage in 1905 - a mark that was 35 points higher than the league average. He also had exceptional range and a strong throwing arm, compiling more than 20 assists in a season on three separate occasions.
But Crawford built his reputation primarily on his hitting. During the Dead-ball Era, the measure of a player's slugging ability was not so much in the number of home runs he hit, but, rather, in the number of triples he compiled. After slumping somewhat between 1904 and 1906, Crawford amassed a total of 47 triples from 1907 to 1909, as Detroit captured the A.L. pennant each year. He eventually went on to tally an all-time major league record of 309 three baggers over the course of his career. When Crawford led the A.L. with seven home runs in 1908, he became one of the few players in baseball history to lead each league in four baggers. Although Crawford was largely overshadowed by Ty Cobb during each of Detroit's pennant-winning seasons, the right-fielder had an extremely prominent role in the success of the team. He led the league with 102 runs scored in 1907 and placed second to his teammate in both batting average (.323) and slugging percentage (.460). In addition to leading the league in home runs in 1908, Crawford finished second with 80 runs batted in, 102 runs scored, 184 hits, a .311 batting average, and a .457 slugging percentage. He also placed second to Cobb in 1909 with 97 runs batted in and a .452 slugging percentage.
The Tigers failed to repeat as American League champions in any of the six remaining years during which Crawford remained a full-time player with the team. Nevertheless, the right-fielder had some of his greatest offensive seasons. He led the league with 19 triples and 120 RBIs in 1910, then followed that up with perhaps his finest all-around performance in 1911, when he batted a career-high .378 and also finished among the league leaders with 115 runs batted in, 109 runs scored, 217 hits, a .438 on-base percentage, and a .526 slugging percentage. Crawford batted well over .300 in each of the next two seasons as well, while amassing a total of 44 triples. He led the league in both runs batted in and triples in each of his final two years as a full-time player, accumulating an all-time American League record of 26 triples in 1914, a year in which he finished second in the league MVP voting.
The 1915 campaign was Crawford's last as a full-time player. He assumed a part-time role in his final two years with the Tigers before retiring at the conclusion of the 1917 season. Crawford ended his career with a .309 batting average, 1,525 runs batted in, 1,391 runs scored, 2,961 hits, and an all-time-best 309 triples. He surpassed 20 triples five times in his career, leading the league in that category a total of six times. He also topped his circuit in home runs twice, and in runs batted in three times. Crawford knocked in more than 100 runs and batted over .320 six times each. Amazingly, he was among the American League leaders in hits, extra base hits, RBIs, slugging percentage, and total bases every year from 1905 to 1915.
HALL OF FAME AND RIVALRY WITH TY COBB:
Yet, despite Crawford's numerous accomplishments, he wasn't elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee until 1957 – 40 years after he played his last game in the major leagues, and only 11 years before he passed away after suffering a stroke on May 26, 1968 at the age of 88.
Somewhat surprisingly, Ty Cobb, with whom Crawford shared a tempestuous relationship throughout their time together as teammates, had a significant amount of influence in the eventual induction of Crawford into Cooperstown. Upon Cobb's death a few years earlier, a reporter found hundreds of letters in his home responding to letters Cobb had written to influential people extolling Crawford's Hall of Fame credentials.
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