Doc Cramer

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Roger Maxwell Cramer

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Biographical Information[edit]

Doc Cramer is sometimes mentioned by sabermetricians as a player whose .296 batting average and 2,705 hits overstate his true value. He had a 20-year career in the major leagues, ranking # 26 all-time for singles, # 65 all-time for hits, # 61 all-time for at bats, and # 100 all-time for runs scored (as of 2014). He was fortunate to have played much of his career at a lively ball time, inflating his statistics.

Prior to his major league days, he was a semi-pro pitcher. He began his professional career late, at age 24, and was a batting champ in the Blue Ridge League his first year as a pro, where he beat his future teammate Joe Vosmik for the title. He hit .404/~.459/.593 for the 1929 Martinsburg Blue Sox that year; no professional baseball team has played in Martinsburg, WV in the 77 years since. He was also 2-2 as a pitcher that year.

He broke in as a rookie with the great Philadelphia Athletics teams of 1929, 1930, and 1931 but wasn't much of a factor as he didn't get many at-bats. He spent a fair portion of 1930 with the Portland Beavers, hitting .347. He did, however, appear in the 1931 World Series, getting one hit in two at-bats. In Game 3 of the Series, he pinch-hit for Lefty Grove, and in Game 7, in the 9th inning with the team behind by four runs, he pinch hit a two-run RBI single to drive in the only Athletics runs of the game.

The Athletics gradually declined from 1932-1935, opening up playing time for a player of his caliber. Cramer hit .336 in 1932 and .332 in 1935. 1935 was his first All-Star appearance. His OPS+es in Philadelphia were still relatively respectable, topping 100 three of four years as a regular.

He was traded to the Boston Red Sox before the 1936 season, where he was to achieve higher visibility but worse performance, as his OPS+ never again reached even 100. Playing with the Red Sox for 5 seasons, he hit .300+ four times. That's not quite as impressive as it sounds - in two of those years, the Red Sox as a team hit over .290. Nevertheless, Cramer made the All-Star team in four of his five years with the Red Sox.

Cramer pitched one game in 1938, giving up two earned runs in four innings of work, and finishing the game.

He was a starting outfielder for the Red Sox when Ted Williams came up as a rookie outfielder in 1939, and when Dom DiMaggio came up as a rookie outfielder in 1940. Cramer's days were numbered as Dom matured.

He spent one year with the Washington Senators in 1941, and then finished out his major league career playing seven years with the Detroit Tigers, mostly in the war years, and mostly hitting under .300 (although league batting averages dropped in those years).

As a regular outfielder in 1945, he played on the World Series-winning team, getting 11 hits and hitting .379. He hit third in the lineup ahead of Hank Greenberg, and got 3 hits in the seventh game of the Series which the Tigers won over the Chicago Cubs. Roy Cullenbine, famous for getting copious walks, batted fifth in the Tiger lineup, and while having only a .227 batting average in the Series, had a higher OBP than Doc did.

On May 1, 1946, he was ejected from a game for the first time in his major league career. He was known overall for a positive demeanor. In 1947, he led the league in pinch hits. Except at the end of his career, Cramer usually had fair range factors in the outfield. He did make lots of errors, though.

In 1949, Doc returned to the minors with the Buffalo Bisons and batted .274/~.315/.393 as a backup on the first-place club. He saw minimal time for the 1950 Seattle Rainiers to finish his career.

All five of the most similar players to Cramer are in the Hall of Fame, which explains why some people want to put Cramer in as well: Richie Ashburn, Harry Hooper, Nellie Fox, Max Carey, and Lloyd Waner. However, that overlooks the fact that Cramer's batting average was achieved in much easier times than that of Ashburn or Hooper. Ashburn, for example, won two batting titles while Cramer's closest time was in 1935 when he hit .332 and was 17 points behind the champ, Buddy Myer. In addition, while Ashburn, Hooper and Carey were all top base-stealers, Cramer stole only 62 bases in his career and got caught 73 times. Fox played an infield position rather than the outfield (in a serendipitous circumstance, Cramer as a batting coach is credited as helping Fox mature as a hitter), so that leaves Lloyd Waner as probably the closest legitimate comparison, and Lloyd Waner hit 20 points higher than Cramer while playing in the National League, which tended to have lower batting averages than the American League.

Among the top 300 outfielders listed in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Cramer had the lowest winning percentage (.465), not the sign of a player who significantly boosted his teams' performance. Cramer's highest vote total in BBWAA voting for the Hall of Fame was 6%.

Cramer is the only player to twice go 6-for-6 in a nine-inning game.

After his playing career, he was a coach for the Detroit Tigers in 1948 and for the Chicago White Sox from 1951 to 1953.

He had two nicknames: "Doc", because he had taken an interest in medicine as a young man, and "Flit" because a sportswriter thought him death to fly balls, and there was an insecticide at the time by that name.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 5-time AL All-Star (1935 & 1937-1940)
  • 7-time AL At Bats Leader (1933-1935, 1938 & 1940-1942)
  • AL Hits Leader (1940)
  • 5-time AL Singles Leader (1934, 1935, 1939, 1940 & 1943)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 3 (1933, 1938 & 1939)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 3 (1934, 1935 & 1940)
  • Won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1945

Records Held[edit]

  • Seasons leading league in at bats, 7
  • Most games with six hits in six at bats, career, 2 (tied)

Related Sites[edit]