What he did: This was originally going to be a column about Derek Jeter. I was sent a copy of Derek Jeter: From the pages of The New York Times some months back, and I figured a review might be salient now since Jeter just collected his 3,000th hit. But after my post this week on former stars who returned to the minors, someone posted Deadball Era great Crawford’s PCL stats here, and I was struck by the similarities. Crawford left the majors at 37 with 2,961 his and went to the Pacific Coast League where he proceeded to dominate. In the current era, it seems unlikely he’d fall short of 3,000 hits.
Era he might have thrived in: When Crawford fell off in the majors, he fell off badly, hitting .173 in limited duty his final season, 1917. Thus, he’d need a current team where he could have a cushy position. I’m thinking a chance to serve as designated hitter for a club on the West Coast might extend Crawford’s career a bit better than the rigors of Deadball Era Detroit.
Why: Crawford’s PCL totals hint at what might have been had he not been shown the door in the majors. After hitting .292 in limited duty his first year there, 1918, with the Los Angeles Angels, Crawford batted .337 over his next three seasons. He also had 131 doubles and 49 triples in that span, not bad for a man who was 41 when he bowed out in 1921. It goes without saying that between the majors and his four years in the Coast League at the end, Crawford collected 3,742 hits. That has to be good for something.
It’s hard to say what Crawford’s PCL numbers might translate to in the modern game, since opinions vary on how that circuit compared to the big leagues. At its height, the PCL was next-best thing to the majors, a warm-weathered wonder world where lesser stars could sometimes earn higher salaries since the season approached 200 games and hitting was valued over defensive ability. I don’t know if Crawford could hit .360 at 39 in the majors, as he did in the PCL in 1919. But it doesn’t seem inconceivable that Wahoo Sam might play something like Bobby Abreu on the Angels. It wouldn’t inspire any children’s stories, but it’d probably be more than enough for 3,000 hits.
Admittedly, in some ways, Crawford might have less of a legacy today, at least among baseball history fans. Wahoo Sam makes a memorable appearance in The Glory of their Times, as author Lawrence Ritter had to go to great lengths to track him down at his home in Baywood Park, California (I lived one town over from Baywood Park my sophomore year of college. It’s a nice place, close to the Pacific Ocean, but really out in the middle of nowhere.) The modern game might not feature Crawford pontificating about the likes of 19th century
atheist agnostic (thanks, Bob) Robert Ingersoll. Then again, perhaps Crawford would bring that to the ESPN. That would be interesting to watch. When’s the last time baseball had a humanist?
Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.
Others in this series: Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film), Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Thompson, Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb, Wally Bunker, Willie Mays