Joseph Edward Cronin (October 12, 1906 - September 7, 1984) enjoyed a 50-year career in baseball like not others before him nor after serving as a player, manager, general manager, executive and league president. Joe was born in San Francisco six months after the 1906 earthquake that claimed much of his family's belongings. However, growing up in the hot bed of baseball talent in and around San Francisco during the early 1900s, Cronin overcame obstacles and became a very gifted athlete. As a six-foot a tall 14-year old, Joe won the boys' city tennis championship in 1920 and then led Mission High School and Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep to city baseball championships in 1922 and 1924, respectively. Despite being a huge fan of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, given that the nearest Major League team was the St. Louis Cardinals, 2,000 miles away, Cronin signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925. After three years in the Pirates organization and little chance to land a big league spot on the left side of the infield with two of the best in the game in Glenn Wright at Shortstop and Pie Traynor at third, Washington Senators scout Joe Engel purchased Cronin for $7,500. Despite owner Clark Griffith’s disdain for the buy, Joe was able to crack the Senators lineup and bettered his numbers each of his first three seasons in D.C. ultimately setting career-highs in 1930 with a .346 average, 203 hits, 127 runs scored, 17 stolen bases and 126 RBI in a league leading 154 games. The Sporting News and baseball writers named him the league’s most valuable player. Joe finished in the top ten in MVP voting in each season from 1931 to 1933 and started the first three MLB All-Star Games at shortstop for the American League. He was a seven-time All-Star and finished second in MVP voting to Jimmie Foxx in 1933 as Foxx posted extraordinary numbers.
However, more notably for that seasons, Joe was tapped as the team’s manager (player/manager) soon after franchise giant, Walter Johnson, was fired, even despite winning 90-plus games over the previous three seasons. Cronin proceeded to lead the Senators to a 99-53 record and the first pennant in eight years, besting the Babe Ruth- and Lou Gehrig-led New York Yankees by seven games. Washington then lost to the New York Giants in the World Series. Following the 1934 season, Cronin was purchased by the Boston Red Sox for an astounding $250,000 shortly after arriving in San Francisco during his honeymoon contingent on he become the player/manager for five years for the BoSox as well. The feisty rarely backed down from confrontations, including those coming from his own teammates who resented taking orders from the younger Cronin. But, his greatest fight came while playing the Yankees and Joe tussled with Jake Powell that spilled over from the field and into the runway where Cronin had no hold off Powell and numerous Yankee teammates. That same year, after owner Tom Yawkey purchased the minor league, Louisville, which rostered a young shortstop named Pee Wee Reese, Cronin downplayed Reese’s talents (perhaps seeing him as a potential threat to his shortstop position) and he was ultimately traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939. Joe served as player/manager for the Red Sox from 1935 to 1945 and after retiring as a player, he stayed on with Boston as manager for two more seasons, winning the American League pennant in 1946 before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Joe Cronin finished his playing career with 2,285 hits including 515 doubles and 170 home runs, 1,233 runs, 1,424 RBI and a .301 career batting average. The 7-time All-Star hit .300 or better and drove in more than 100 runs eight times in his career during his 20-year playing career. As manager, he compiled a record of 1,236-1,055 and won the American League pennants in 1933 and 1946. Joe would eventually succeed longtime general manager Eddie Collins and served as GM for 11 years. During that time, Major League Baseball began to integrate in 1947 with the first player, Jackie Robinson, being passed over by the Red Sox, as was prospect Willie Mays. Boston would not integrate until 1959. While general manager for the Red Sox, Cronin also served as a member of the Major League’s realignment, pension and rules committees and when news of AL President William Harridge retirement surfaced, Cronin was an obvious choice. In 1959, Joe Cronin became the fourth American League President and served as such for 15 years until 1973. Under Joe’s tenure as president, MLB expanded in 1961, 1962 and 1969 and adopted the designated hitter in 1973. Joe Cronin was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956. In 1962, the once overlooked Jackie Robinson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.