“If we were looking for a model for a statue of a slugger, we would choose Sam Crawford.” – Baseball Magazine, 1916
“Wahoo Sam” Crawford began his baseball career playing semi-pro ball around his birthplace of Wahoo, Neb. He rose quickly through the minors, debuting at age 19 with the Cincinnati Reds in September, 1899, batting .307 in 31 games.
After moderate success in 1900, he emerged the next season, hitting .330 and leading the league with 16 home runs. The consistent Crawford would hit .333 the following year, and .335 in 1903, when he jumped to the Detroit Tigers. In 1903 also marked his second consecutive year leading his league in triples, with 25; the triple was a specialty of Crawford’s, who finished his career with a big league record 309 three-baggers legged out in the cavernous ballparks of the dead ball era.
With outfield contributions from Crawford and young Ty Cobb, the Tigers broke out in 1907 to win the first of three consecutive pennants. Crawford led the league in runs in 1907 while hitting .323. The next year he led in home runs, with seven, batting .311. In the third straight pennant year, 1909, he hit .314, leading the league in doubles with 35.
Though there would be no more pennants for the Tigers with Crawford, he remained one of the top hitters in baseball. In 1910, he led the league in triples and runs batted in – the first of three times he would lead the league in that category. In 1911, he batted .378, the highest mark of his career. He led the league in triples three consecutive years, beginning in 1913, and in RBI in 1914 and 1915.
The 1917 season marked the final big league campaign for Crawford, who led the league in triples six times, home runs twice, RBI three times, total bases twice and once each in runs and doubles. For his career, he batted .309 over 19 seasons. He stole 367 bases, drove in 1,523 runs, scored 1,391 runs, hit 458 doubles and rang up 2,961 hits.
“My idea of batting is a thing that should be done unconsciously,” Crawford said. “If you get to studying it too much, you will miss it altogether.”
Crawford was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1957. He passed away on June 15, 1968.