Gavvy Cravath

From BR Bullpen


Clifford Carlton Cravath
(Cactus Gavvy)

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Biographical Information[edit]


"In right field is the greatest offensive player on Pat Moran's roster. 'Cactus' Cravath is a slugger pure and simple - the greatest in the game today... Though no speed marvel, Cravath is one of the brainiest base runners in the country... Though 'Cactus' cannot cover ground like Whitted or Paskert, he is sure death on fly balls, and he gets more assists than any other right fielder in the league. The big fellow has an ideal temperament... A good-humored, helpful chap... Do you see any weakness here?" - an article called 'The Phillies' Underrated Outfield' in Sporting Life, May 20, 1916

Outfielder Gavvy Cravath was one of the game's first true blue home run sluggers. He played 11 seasons in the majors, leading the National League in home runs six times as well as quite a few offensive categories. He later managed a couple of seasons in the big leagues.

Cravath was the first big leaguer from the San Diego area to make good in the big leagues. First, he spent a significant portion of his career in top level minor leagues, primarily with the Pacific Coast League's Los Angeles Angels (with whom he was PCL MVP in 1907) and the American Association's Minneapolis Millers. He reached the majors with the Boston Red Sox in 1908 and seemed to be making good, batting .258 with 11 triples, when he was sold to the Chicago White Sox for the 1909 season. He played 23 games with the ChiSox and Washington Senators in 1909, batting only .161, before returning to the minors for several years. In 1910 and 1911, he won batting titles in the American Association and also led the circuit in homers. No one tracked RBI in the AA, or else he may have been the first Triple Crown winner in loop history.

He very nearly never made it back to the bigs. A clerical error in a telegram by his minor league club, the Minneapolis Millers, led to him becoming a free agent by order of the National Commission. He was promptly bought by the Philadelphia Phillies for $9,000. Now 31, he made good with a look in 1912, batting .284/.358/.470 with 50 extra base hits, an extreme amount for the Deadball Era. In 1913, he led the senior circuit in hits (179), home runs (19), RBI (128) and slugging percentage (.568), crafting a .341/.407/.568 line and finishing runner up to Jake Daubert for the Chalmers MVP Award. Adept at getting on base in addition to bringing runners home with one swing of the bat, he improved to 83 walks with a league-leading 19 home runs and a .292/.402/.499 line for 1914.

The 1915 season was the best for Cravath and would be the best for the Phils for a long time. Gavvy hit 24 home runs, a new high for the century and three shy of Ned Williamson's record 27 with the Chicago White Stockings in 1884. He led the league in runs scored (89), homers, RBI (115), walks (86), on-base percentage (.393) and slugging percentage (.510), hitting .285 in adding 31 doubles. The Phils, on the strength of Cravath's bat and Pete Alexander's right arm, won their first pennant that season, going to the World Series for the first time (they would not return until the "Whiz Kids" season of 1950). The Phils were unable to topple the Boston Red Sox, Cravath batting just .125/.222/.313 in the five-game loss.

Cravath enjoyed three more home run titles and three more full-time seasons in Philadelphia. In 1916, his 11 bombs were not enough to reign supreme, but his .379 on base percentage earned him the OBP crown of the National League. He led the league again in 1917 (12) and 1918 (8) with production well below his 1913 to 1916 output. In 1919, taking over as player-manager for Jack Coombs near the end of the season, he won his final home run crown with 12 in only 83 games, batting a terrific .341/.438/.640 in 214 at bats. He only played 46 times in his final season; working primarily as a pinch hitter, he batted .289/.407/.467 with his final home run as the team fell to 62-91. Released at season's end, he returned to the minors as player-manager for the Salt Lake City Bees in 1921 and ended his career back in Minneapolis in 1922.

Gavvy's 119 career home runs were nearly enough to reach the all-time record of 138 by Roger Connor; before it was known Connor had the crown first, Cravath was often incorrectly recognized as the first home run king. His record would never have lasted since Babe Ruth passed everyone in 1921 and eventually hit 714. Cravath was the fastest player in major league history to reach 100 home runs (in 1,016 games) until he was surpassed by The Babe (who needed just 528 games).

Cravath later returned to the Phillies staff as a coach in 1923 and was a scout for the Minneapolis Millers. After his baseball days, he moved to southern California and became involved in the real estate market. He was elected a magistrate in Laguna Beach in 1927, serving 36 years in that role, and died of a heart ailment there at age 83 in 1963. Posthumously, he earned entrance into the San Diego Hall of Champions and the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1915 & 1916)
  • 2-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1913 & 1915)
  • 3-time NL OPS Leader (1913-1915)
  • NL Runs Scored Leader (1915)
  • NL Hits Leader (1913)
  • 2-time NL Total Bases Leader (1913 & 1915)
  • 6-time NL Home Runs Leader (1913-1915 & 1917-1919)
  • 2-time NL RBI Leader (1913 & 1915)
  • NL Base on Balls Leader (1915)
  • 20 Home Runs Seasons: 1 (1915)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 3 (1913-1915)

Preceded by
Jack Coombs
Philadelphia Phillies Manager
Succeeded by
Bill Donovan

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1919 Philadelphia Phillies National League 29-46 8th Philadelphia Phillies replaced Jack Coombs (18-44) on July 9
1920 Philadelphia Phillies National League 62-91 8th Philadelphia Phillies
1921 Salt Lake City Bees Pacific Coast League 73-110 7th none

Records Held[edit]

  • Bases Loaded Doubles, game, 2, 8/8/15 (tied)

Related Sites[edit]