“Every Day I put on a uniform was a thrill. Just to be a part of the show was a real thrill for me. Every day could have been my first big league game.” – Joe Cronin
Joe Cronin had one of the most interesting, multifaceted careers in baseball: He was a player, manager, general manager, American League President – and a member of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors and Veteran’s Committee.
He was born in the basement of his aunt’s house in San Francisco in October 1906, the year of the great earthquake. His family was living in the basement because they had been displaced by the quake.
A fine-fielding shortstop who hit for power and average, he played briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1926 and 1927. The Washington Senators purchased his contract in 1928, for $7,500, a whopping sum at the time. The following year he became the Senators' regular shortstop.
He played for the Senators until 1934, and during his time there, he led the league twice in games played, and once each in doubles and triples. He became player-manager in 1933, winning the pennant in his first season at the helm. Though the Senators lost the Series to the Giants, Cronin hit .318.
In October of 1934, the Boston Red Sox traded for Cronin, sending Lyn Lary and a quarter of a million dollars to Washington, an unprecedented sum. Cronin played shortstop for the Red Sox until 1945, and managed the club until 1947. Cronin hit over .300 for the Red Sox in four full seasons, and managed the team to the 1946 pennant, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
A fine fielder, Cronin led the league in putouts and assists three times each, and twice in fielding percentage. As a hitter, he posted a batting average of .301 over 20 seasons, garnered 2,285 hits, drove in 1,424 runs, scored 1,233 runs, hit 515 doubles, 118 triples, and 170 home runs. He was a 7-time All-Star and finished in the top 10 of American League Most Valuable Player voting five times.
He was a leader as a player, as a manager, and as an executive – and was lauded for the leadership and other intangibles he brought to his ball clubs. His managerial winning percentage was .540.
From 1948 through 1959, Cronin served in the Red Sox front office in several capacities: General Manager, treasurer, and vice president. He became the first former player to be named President of the American League in 1959, a position he held through 1973. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956.
When the Red Sox retired Cronin’s No. 4 in 1984, Ted Williams had this to say about him: “Joe Cronin was a great player, a great manager, a wonderful father. No one respects you more than I do, Joe. I love you. In my book you’re a great man.”
Cronin passed away on Sept. 7, 1984.