Joseph Edward Cronin
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11½", Weight 180 lb.
- High School Mission High School (San Francisco), Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory
- Debut April 29, 1926
- Final Game April 19, 1945
- Born October 12, 1906 in San Francisco, CA USA
- Died September 7, 1984 in Osterville, MA USA
"I knew I was watching a great player... I bought Cronin at a time he was hitting .221. When I told Clark Griffith what I had done, he screamed, 'You paid $7,500 for that bum? Well, you didn't buy him for me. You bought him for yourself. He's not my ballplayer – he's yours. You keep him and don't either you or Cronin show up at the ballpark.'" - Joe Engel
Cronin grew up in San Francisco and was a gifted all-around athlete, winning a city junior tennis championship at age 14. After graduating from high school, he played semipro ball while working as a bank clerk. He was discovered by a scout, who signed him to play in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1925. He reached the majors as a 19-year-old in 1926 but saw limited playing time in parts of two seasons with Pittsburgh, hanging around the entirety of the pennant season in 1927 while playing only 12 games.
Cronin's contract was purchased by the Kansas City Blues of the American Association before the 1928 season. Discovered there by former big leaguer turned scout Joe Engel, Engel sent a telegram to Mildred Robertson, niece of Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith, while bringing Joe to meet her pop that he had discovered her future husband. Oddly enough, Cronin would wed Robertson after the 1934 season. Joe was sold to the Sens for $7,500 in July, finishing out the season with a 67-game run in D.C. He became the regular shortstop in 1929, perking up to a .281/.388/.421 line in 145 games. The next year, 1930, Joe arrived to the upper echelon, hitting .346/.422/.513 with 13 home runs, 41 doubles, 127 runs scored and 126 RBI en route to winning the writers' MVP Award (forerunner of BBWAA Award) and The Sporting News MVP Award. He had another wonderful year in 1931 but was not bestowed any accolades after merely batting .306/.391/.480 with 12 home runs, 13 triples, 44 doubles, 103 runs scored and 126 RBI again. In 1932, he was the AL leader in triples (18) while hitting .318/.393/.492.
At 26, Cronin became player-manager of the Senators in 1933. In his first year at the helm, he led the club to the American League pennant, losing in the World Series to the New York Giants. He also hit .309/.398/.445 with a league-leading 45 doubles that year, finished second in MVP voting, and was the starting shortstop in the inaugural All-Star Game. He returned to the All-Star Game again the following year, batting .284/.353/.421 as the team slipped to 66-86 in 1934. Upon marrying Mildred, the happy couple returned from their honeymoon to discover uncle Clark had sold Joe to the Boston Red Sox for some cash flow ($250,000, a huge sum in the heart of the Great Depression) and shortstop Lyn Lary.
One of Tom Yawkey's first big acquisitions, Joe was handed a five-year deal worth $30,000 per year to step in and lead the team as player-manager. It was not an ideal marriage and Cronin took a lot of heat as Boston failed to tear up the AL despite Yawkey bringing in several stars: Wes Ferrell and Lefty Grove, two pitchers who delighted in undermining Joe, and slugging first baseman Jimmie Foxx were among the other new arrivals. Cronin did well on the field in 1935, making a third consecutive All-Star Game, then slumped in an abbreviated, 81-game season in 1936. He rebounded in 1937 by ripping off three more All-Star seasons. In 1937, he hit .307/.402/.486 with 10 homers, 40 doubles and 102 runs scored as the Sox unloaded Wes and brother Rick Ferrell for two of baseball's toughest men to figure, Bobo Newsom and virulent racist Ben Chapman. In 1938, Joe led the AL with 51 doubles in crafting a .325/.428/.536 line.
Around this time, Billy Evans, the Red Sox farm director, had become smitten with a young shortstop playing for the Louisville Colonels of the Triple A American Association. So smitten was Billy that he got Yawkey to pony up the cash to buy the club to be their top affiliate. Evans and Yawkey sent Cronin on a scouting excursion of the young pup when Cronin came to realize this man was being groomed to be his successor. Joe was not about to go quietly into that good night and suggested that the young man be traded. He also ratcheted up the pressure on Yawkey to unload Evans, furious about this transgression. And so, Evans would soon be ousted and the young shortstop, one Pee Wee Reese, was dealt to the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he merely became one of the top shortstops of all-time.
As Reese was establishing himself, Joe had three more seasons as a regular, making two more trips to the All-Star Game in 1939 and 1941 while blasting a career-best 24 home runs in 1940. With Ted Williams now in tow in the outfield and a new generation of Sox stars coming of age, Cronin ceded shortstop to Johnny Pesky in 1942. Joe became a glorified pinch hitter thereafter, setting an AL record in 1943 by belting five pinch hit home runs. On June 17th that season, facing the Philadelphia Athletics in a doubleheader, he called on himself as a pinch hitter in both games and hit home runs each time. After breaking his leg in a battle with the New York Yankees in April 1945, he reached the end of the line. In 20 seasons of big league ball, Joe had hit .301/.390/.468 with 170 home runs and 1,424 RBI.
Joe remained aboard as the Red Sox manager, leading the club to a pennant in 1946, when they lost the World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. After the 1947 season, he moved into the Boston front office as General Manager, hiring Joe McCarthy to his old post. To this day, he remains the winningest manager in Red Sox history, with 1,071 wins, and his uniform number, 4, was retired by the team. Joe reigned as GM for eleven years, watching as the Sox went from a contender to a middling club. One of the most mind-boggling errors made during his time as head of player personnel was failing to sign and develop any of the terrific African-American talent now eligible to play big league baseball upon integration. The Sox had already missed out on another Brooklyn star, Jackie Robinson, following what was essentially a sham tryout in 1945. Not to be outdone, Cronin refused to commit to a talent who had received glowing reviews from his scouting staff. Due to this, Ted Williams and Willie Mays never roamed the same outfield. Pumpsie Green finally broke the Sox's color line six months after Cronin's latest ascension.
From 1959 to 1973, Cronin was President of the American League. As leader, he presided over two rounds of expansion - 1961 and 1969 - and the second dead-ball era. He notoriously botched the running of the expansion draft, which he supervised in 1961, forcing the two new franchises, the Los Angeles Angels and the (new) Washington Senators to make a number of post-draft trades to cover up some of his mistakes. He was a candidate for the Commissioner's job twice in the mid-1960s, losing out to Spike Eckert and Bowie Kuhn. Joe helped integrate big league umpiring crews with the hiring of Emmett Ashford in 1966 but later drew criticism in 1968 for firing two umpires, Al Salerno and Bill Valentine, for having the temerity to want to start a union. Following the 1966 World Series, Cronin ran into the new head of the MLBPA, Marvin Miller, upon whom he condescendingly imparted this wisdom: "Young man... I've got some advice for you that I want you to remember. The players come and go but the owners stay on forever."
Cronin, of course, was related by marriage to the penny-pinching successor to uncle Clark, Calvin Griffith, and Senators pitcher Joe Haynes by his marriage to Mildred. A father of four kids, he died just a few months following the retirement of his number 4. Posthumously, he was honored by being named to Major League Baseball's All-Century Team.
- 7-time AL All-Star (1933-1935, 1937-1939 & 1941)
- 2-time AL Doubles Leader (1933 & 1938)
- AL Triples Leader (1932)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1940)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 4 (1930, 1931, 1937 & 1940)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 8 (1930-1934, 1937, 1939 & 1940)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1930)
- AL Pennants: 2 (1933 & 1946)
- 100 Wins Seasons as Manager: 1 (1946)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1956
|Washington Senators Manager
|Boston Red Sox Manager
|Boston Red Sox General Manager
Year-By-Year Managerial Record
- Mark Armour: Joe Cronin: A Life in Baseball, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2010.
- Mark Armour: "Joe Cronin", in Mark Armour and Bill Nowlin, eds.: Red Sox Baseball in the Days of Ike and Elvis: The Red Sox of the 1950s, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2012, pp. 319-326. ISBN 978-1933599243