Year Inducted: 1957 (Veterans Committee)
How does one define a slugger? Is it someone that hits a lot of home runs? Is it a player that leads his league in slugging percentage or extra base hits? If that’s the case, during the Dead Ball Era, who would be the best slugger? Ty Cobb was more known for just hits rather than hitting for power, as were stars like Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins. There was one, however, that was given the tag of “slugger”. That was Cobb’s fellow Detroit outfielder, Sam Crawford.
Crawford played for 19 years in the Majors, mostly with the Tigers but also for the Reds. In that time he set the career record for most triples in a career with 309, along with 97 homers and 458 doubles. He slashed .309/.362/.452 and had a wRC+ of 138. Crawford maximized his power for doubles and triples as he spent most of his career in larger ballparks, and it being a time before homeruns were the norm. Around that time, the common philosophy for hitting was ground balls hit through the hole, a method dubbed the “scientific” approach by its advocates like John McGraw. Crawford more believed in the idea of “see ball, hit ball…hard” method of hitting and used it to drive in 1525 runs and scored 1391 times.
Crawford was well praised for his fielding acumen during his career. And, despite having a strong arm in the outfield and solid range, he was rated as a negative fielder on Fangraphs with -30 runs as a fielder. He also was a negative runner in his career, despite having over 300 career steals.
At the time of his retirement, among all outfielders, Crawford ranked 1st in triples, 8th in homers, 15th in runs scored, 1st in RBI and 4th in fWAR. One of the top outfielders of all-time when he retired, why was he not voted into the Hall of Fame sooner than 1957? Mostly for two reasons. The first being that he wasn’t Ty Cobb, who was just so far ahead of the curve that it was tough for a lot of other outfielders to stand out, especially when they played on the same team. The other was that he wasn’t Babe Ruth, and by 1936 (the year of the first Hall of Fame vote), an outfielder who didn’t have a lot of homers or get a lot of hits just didn’t stand out.
Crawford was a great hitter in the early years of the game, and one of the finest sluggers of the Dead Ball Era. He was well deserving of his induction.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/8/16:
#85- This Cardinal pitcher once won 30 games in a season
#84- Mr. October