No. 120 Joe Cronin (Number 14 Shortstop)

Imagine you just got married and you fly to San Francisco for you honeymoon with the bride you courted for years. You have an important management job with your Father-in-Law who you have a good relationship. The plane lands and you have an important phone call. It is your Father-in-Law telling you that he has sold you to a rival company to help keep his company alive. This is basically what happened to Joe Cronin when he was traded and sold from Washington to Boston. The important management position Joe held was the manager’s job. He managed the Senators and played shortstop. He was only 28 when this happened. He would also be a player manager with the Red Sox. He actually started as a player manager 2 years before the trade taking the Senator’s to the pennant his first year.

The player traded was Boston shortstop Lyn Lary. While Lary wasn’t a bad player (I have him 101st at shortstop) it was certainly a one-sided trade except for the $250,000 (or $225,000 depending on the source) that the Senators received in the trade. This was in 1934 during the depression. It would be worth well over $4,000,000 today with wither figure above. Also, Cronin would get a salary of $30,000 a year (or close to $600,000 a year in today’s money) for five years to be player/manager. The teams needed Joe’s permission to make the trade. Of course, it was a no brainer. Going was not only help him financially it would help his Father-in-Law Clark Griffith.

I always think of Cronin as an executive as he was a long time American League President when I started watching. He started as a manager in 1933 at age 26. He was a player manager until 1945. He might have retired as a player before 1945 but there was a shortage of players due to WWII. In 1946 he stayed as manager and won the pennant. In 1947 the Red Sox weren’t as good, but Cronin basically got what was a promotion to me as he was made General Manager of the Red Sox.

As General Manager Cronin made a couple of big trades but lost two pennants in a row by 1 game. He was the General Manager for the team for 11 years, but the team started to fade. One reason was the Red Sox refused to sign black players. They were the last of the 16 teams at the time to play a black player in the majors. People put all the blame on Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, but I think Cronin wasn’t an innocent bystander.
Cronin in 1958 received another promotion. He was now league President. Here he hired the first black umpire for major league baseball Emmitt Ashford. This one probably one of the few areas the American League beat the National League in terms on integration in those days.

Cronin was league President until 1973 until Bowie Kuhn the commissioner said his office should move to New York. Cronin then retired. What I don’t understand is why Cronin didn’t get to be Baseball Commissioner. In 1965 they hired a retired Army General William Ekert who knew nothing about baseball. He didn’t even really like the game. Reading his SABR biograph he did try to help baseball but wasn’t very effective. Then there was Bowie Kuhn. I don’t think Cronin was in the running for this spot. Kuhn had worked with baseball and had handled some legal work for the teams. However, Kuhn wasn’t able to handle the changes that were happening to the game. He wanted to keep the status quo in the game, but society and the players were getting too many rights. Even when he was on the right side, (Kuhn was for putting Negro League players into the hall of fame) he didn’t take the best methods for implementing the plan.

Cronin was a better hitter than a fielder. Especially for shortstop. However, he was a shortstop through age 34. His last four years he was more of a backup player, but still very effective. He was also an easy hall of famer.

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Author: Douglas Byzewski

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