Return to Sam Crawford (person)

The Bottom Line

"Wahoo" Sam Crawford was one of the greatest baseball sluggers of the dead ball era in the early 20th century. He is the modern major league record holder for lifetime triples and inside-the-park home runs, and despite being overshadowed by Ty Cobb his entire career, Crawford left an impressive legacy as one of its historic dominant forces.

Beginnings

Samuel Earl Crawford was born April 18, 1880 in Wahoo, Nebraska (home of David Letterman's Worldwide Pants, Inc.). Crawford showed a prodigiousness for baseball at an early age, and he left his home at 17 to play in the minor leagues under contract with the National League, taking his hometown with him as a nickname.

Crawford's career in baseball began when he was 19, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. He showed a tremendous amount of speed, and was named as a starter in 1900. In 1901, Crawford set the existing record for inside-the-park home runs in a season with 12. Following the 1902 season, the NL and American League got together for consolidation talks: a major dispute was that the leagues were signing the other's star players without offering compensation. Crawford was one such player, and he was finally awarded to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for $3,000.

The Best Hitter In Baseball

Playing in the outfield alongside Ty Cobb and Harry Heilmann, Crawford lived in the shadows of the Georgia Peach his entire career. Yet Crawford proved to be just as formidable at the plate as Cobb: from 1905 to 1915, he finished in the top 10 in every major offensive category every single year. Home runs, RBIs, hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, batting average - Wahoo Sam was a one-man army batting 3rd after Cobb and Heillmann.

Crawford's Tigers made the World Series three years running - in 1907, 1908, and 1909 - but ended up three-time losers. All three times, Crawford struggled, never batting higher than .250 in a single Series. The losses haunted him the rest of his days.

In 1914, Crawford finished 2nd in the MVP voting after taking the Tigers to the playoffs after a mid-season injury to Cobb, batting .314 with 26 triples - still the single-season American League record.

1915 marked one of the better-known tales about Crawford: with Cobb on second, Crawford came to the plate against St. Louis Cardinals hurler Grover Loudermilk. On the first pitch, Crawford sent a rocket back at the mound. Loudermilk made the catch, but the momentum somersaulted him completely over, and he sat on the mound in a daze as Cobb raced around to score from second.

Injuries and age caught up with Crawford in 1916, when knee and ankle injuries limited him to 100 games. Midway through his 1917 season, batting only .173 as a pinch-hitter, Crawford announced his retirement to become a coach in the Pacific Coast League. When he did so, he retired as the American League all-time leader in home runs, extra-base hits, total bases, runs batted in, inside the park home runs, and triples. Although many of these records were later surpassed, he remains the all-time leader in triples.

After Baseball

Crawford continued to play and coach in the PCL for 6 more years. In 1943 he retired and became an umpire for the league. By 1952 he had become a college coach, coaching community colleges throughout the California and Arizona area. After a strong campaign by Tris Speaker and Cobb, Crawford was elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1957. It was a travesty he was not elected in by normal procedures.

"Wahoo" Sam Crawford passed away June 15, 1968 in Hollywood, California.

Career Statistics

 YEAR   TEAM   G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA
 1899 CIN NL  31  127   25   39   3   7   1   20   6  ?   2   ? .307
 1900 CIN NL 101  389   68  101  15  15   7   59  14  ?  28   ? .260
 1901 CIN NL 131  515   91  170  20  16  16  104  13  ?  37   ? .330
 1902 CIN NL 140  555   92  185  18  22   3   78  16  ?  47   ? .333
 1903 DET AL 137  550   88  184  23  25   4   89  18  ?  25   ? .335
 1904 DET AL 150  562   49  143  22  16   2   73  20  ?  44   ? .254
 1905 DET AL 154  575   73  171  38  10   6   75  22  ?  50   ? .297
 1906 DET AL 145  563   65  166  25  16   2   72  24  ?  38   ? .295
 1907 DET AL 144  582  102  188  34  17   4   81  18  ?  37   ? .323
 1908 DET AL 152  591  102  184  33  16   7   80  15  ?  37   ? .311
 1909 DET AL 156  589   83  185  35  14   6   97  30  ?  47   ? .314
 1910 DET AL 154  588   83  170  26  19   5  120  20  ?  37   ? .289
 1911 DET AL 146  574  109  217  36  14   7  115  37  ?  61   ? .378
 1912 DET AL 149  581   81  189  30  21   4  109  41  ?  42   ? .325
 1913 DET AL 153  609   78  193  32  23   9   83  13  ?  52  28 .317
 1914 DET AL 157  582   74  183  22  26   8  104  25 16  69  31 .314
 1915 DET AL 156  612   81  183  31  19   4  112  24 14  66  29 .299
 1916 DET AL 100  322   41   92  11  13   0   42  10  ?  37  10 .286
 1917 DET AL  61  104    6   18   4   0   2   12   0  ?   4   6 .173
 CAREER     2517 9570 1391 2961 458 309  97 1525 366 30 760 104 .309
* Bold indicates led league.

Sources

  • http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/C/Crawford_Sam.stm
  • www.baseball-reference.com/c/crawfsa01.shtml

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