“None of them can hit them quite as hard as Crawford.” – Fielder Jones
Sam Crawford played 19 seasons in the major leagues and holds the record for most career triples (309). He was a huge star – near the end of his career, when he was sitting on the bench, Baseball Magazine had a photo of Crawford with the caption Sam Crawford, Baseball’s Greatest Slugger, at Present on the Bench. It took the young Harry Heilmann to sit Crawford down, and while Heilmann in 1916 had a slightly higher SLG, Crawford beat him by a few points in batting average.
Nicknamed “Wahoo Sam” after his hometown of Wahoo, Nebraska, Crawford hit well as a 19-year-old rookie on the 1899 Cincinnati Reds, batting .307 on skipper Buck Ewing’s club. He had perhaps his best year in the majors in 1901 with the Reds, hitting .330, leading the league in home runs by a comfortable margin, and posting a 168 OPS+.
Crawford jumped to the Detroit Tigers of the American League in 1903 and remained with the team for the rest of his career. He was teammates with Ty Cobb in the Detroit outfield from 1905 to 1917. Primarily a rightfielder, he played center from 1907 to 1909 while Cobb manned right; the Tigers reached the World Series all three of those seasons. The pair did not get along off the field, and they only talked to each other when calling for a fly ball in the outfield.
Crawford tied an AL record set by Joe Jackson when he hit 26 triples in 1914. He ended his big league career in 1917, 39 hits shy of 3,000, but played several more seasons with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League after that.
Crawford never led the league in batting, but was second four different times. He also never led the league in slugging, but was second four times and third four other times. He ranks # 9 on the all-time list for the Gray Ink test, which measures how often a player is among league leaders offensively. He also holds the record for most inside-the-park home runs (51).
Crawford was the head coach at the University of Southern California from 1924 to 1929. Showing that art imitates life, he had a role in the 1927 Buster Keaton movie “College”, where he played a baseball coach. He is listed seventh in the credits.
Crawford was an umpire in the Pacific Coast League in 1935.