Lave Cross

From BR Bullpen


Lafayette Napoleon Cross
born Vratislav Kriz

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 8½", Weight 155 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

"Lave Cross was captain in more ways than on the ball field. He was always the first one in the old horse-drawn bus, which used to haul the Athletics from their third-rate hotels to the ball parks. The ritual went both for leaving the hotel and after the ball game, and anyone trying to scramble in ahead of Lave had a fight on his hands. Lave was so bowlegged it was a wonder those hot ones down the third base line didn't roll right through the loop." - Fred Lieb, from a biography about Connie Mack


Lafayette "Lave" Cross played twenty-one years in four major leagues. He primarily hung around Philadelphia, where he played in the four big leagues of his day in the city (American Association, Players League, National League and American League). At the time of his retirement, Lave was among the all-time top ten in several offensive categories, including hits (2,644, once an all-time record for third basemen), RBI (1,371) and total bases (3,466). A converted catcher who once split a big league catching job with brother Amos, Cross is the only player to set two new records for fielding percentage at the hot corner, doing so in 1895 (.940, breaking Billy Nash's .933) and 1899 (.959, 12 points better than Billy Clingman's record).

Lave was the fourth child and third son of an immigrant family that came to Cleveland from Bohemia. In addition to Amos, brothers Frank and Joe each had one game tenures in the bigs. Amos made good first with Lave a close second, joining him on the old Louisville Colonels and splitting catching duties. Lave originally arrived as a catcher/outfielder hybrid, seeing limited action in his first two seasons while nothing to write home about with a bat in his hands. He was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1889, catching in 55 games, before making the leap for the player's cause to the Philadelphia Quakers of the Players League. In 1891, returning to the A's for the final year of the American Association's big league tenure, he finally established himself with the bat, hitting .301/.366/.458 with 14 triples in 110 games, nearly double his previous games played high. He made his first appearances as a third baseman that year, first handling the position on a more exclusive basis in 1894. During this stretch of play, he umpired a couple of major league games, one in the American Association in 1889 and another in the NL in 1892.

With the AA dissolved, Lave hung around Philly with the Phillies, seeing work as a valuable utility man his first two seasons. In 1894, with the pitcher's mound moved to its now standard 60' 6", he enjoyed his finest season. Cross batted .387/.424/.526 in 122 games, establishing career highs in runs scored (128), hits (210) and RBI (132) while smoking 51 extra base hits, three coming in his hitting for the cycle against the Brooklyn Bridegrooms on April 24. Amazingly, his average was not even top 3 on his team, as four outfielders batted over .400. His offensive production mellowed out the next season but his defense sure picked up, leading the league in assists and fielding percentage for the first time. Moving back to a utility role in his final two Phillies seasons, he set a record that still stands by racking up 15 assists at second base in a 12 inning game on August 5, 1897.

After clashing routinely with new Phils skipper George Stallings in 1897, including an alleged incident in which he chased him by foot with a brick, Lave was pushed along to the St. Louis Browns for 1898. He hit .317/.348/.405 in 151 games, part of the dying days of Chris von der Ahe's ownership. The Robison brothers, Frank and Stanley, entered into a ridiculous relationship for 1899 in which they bought St. Louis (now the Perfectos) and loaded them with the best players of both of their ownership interests. The Cleveland Spiders, their other franchise, was essentially killed dead with the remaining players not deemed perfectly Perfecto. Lave got a view of both sides of this melodrama in real time. He was stuck player-managing the Spiders for a month, taking them to 8-30, before being paroled to St. Louis, combining to hit .298/.330/.377. He moved to the Brooklyn Superbas in 1900, finally playing for a pennant winner. He led the league in fielding at third for the fourth time in five seasons. These would be his last NL fielding crowns.

The American League established itself as a big league for the 1901 season. When Connie Mack offered Lave $3,000 annually, he made the leap to his fourth Philly club, the new Athletics. He hit .328/.358/.465 in the inaugural run and became team captain in 1902 upon Napoleon Lajoie's forced move to Lave's hometown, Cleveland. He batted .342/.374/.440 as the A's won their first pennant, leading the team in average and RBI (108). Those 108 RBI became the record for the most without belting a single home run. During that season, he began a streak of 447 consecutive games that ended in 1905, in between batting a combined .291 with 133 runs scored and 161 RBI. In '05, he made his World Series debut, batting just 2-for-19 as the New York Giants upended the Mack men. Following the season, he moved to the Washington Senators for a final two seasons, walking away in June 1907.

Once his big league days were done, Lave player-managed Shamokin of the 1908 Atlantic League for part of the season. He took over as player-manager of the Charlotte Hornets in the Carolina Association during the 1909 season, managed the team in 1910 and 1911. The team's overall records during the three years was 154-171 and the Hornets finished 5th, 2nd, and 3rd in the league. In 1912, a spry 46, he played his final season as player-manager of the Haverhill Hustlers in the New England League. Cross coached Ohio Wesleyan University for a spell in 1914 before retiring. He died of a heart attack at 61 while walking to his machinist job in Toledo.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1894)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 3 (1894, 1895 & 1902)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1894)

Related Sites[edit]

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