Year Inducted: 1956 (BBWAA, ballot #10, 152/193)
Many players go from the field to a coaching position after retirement, with a lot even becoming managers for their former teams. Some will become big parts of the minor leagues, which can be seen with a lot of the older players. Very few go from the field to the front office, at least successfully. Even fewer still become President of the League and very nearly become Commissioner. That number would be exactly one: Boston shortstop Joe Cronin.
Cronin’s many paths in baseball, all fifty years of it, began on the ballfield as a second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Eventually he would switch to shortstop and become one of the top shortstops ever. In 20 seasons with the Bosox, Senators and Pirates, Cronin hit .301/.390/.468 with a wRC+ of 120. Cronin collected just shy of 2300 hits in his career, including over 500 doubles, over 100 triples and about 170 homers. Cronin usually hit in an RBI spot in the order, yet still took his walks as they came, with over 1000 bases on balls in his career. Still, he managed to knock in 1424 runs in his career and scored over 1200 runs despite being a negative baserunner in his career.
Cronin, as a shorstop, needed to be able to field his position well in order to be considered a great player. While he wasn’t the best defensively, he still was worth 140 runs defensively, a total that ranked him 23rd all-time among shortstops all-time at his retirement. Cronin’s solid fielding as a shortstop helps put him in the upper echelon of players.
Cronin retired with the 5th most fWAR as a shortstop ever. And, if that’s where the story ended, Cronin would be remembered only as a shortstop. However, Cronin, who already had experience as a player-manager for the Red Sox, became the Red Sox full-time manager in 1946 after his retirement in 1945. Cronin would win the AL Pennant that year with a lineup featuring Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, among many other great players. Eventually he would become GM and Team President, but his tenure in those roles isn’t something for the Red Sox to be fond of, with the team famously (though more due to Tom Yawkey than Cronin) passing over both Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays along with over 100 other African American players that could have changed their fortunes much sooner than 2004. Cronin also saw over the expansion of the American League and the implementation of the designated hitter rule before resigning as President of the American League, culminating one of the greatest lifes in baseball history.
Cronin’s accomplishments as a player are many, and he was an easy inductee. Cronin’s accomplishments as a baseball lifer are legendary, and he helped shape the game that is known and loved today.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/22/16:
#55- A player that caused instant controversy when he picked his original team over the Yankees as his rep for the Hall of Fame.
#56- This pitcher gained fame for his outing in the 1926 World Series while suffering from a hangover.