A contact hitter extraordinaire, Doc Cramer had a bat in his hands for one reason: to hit the blasted ball. And the ball he did hit – often. Doc has 2,705 career base hits. That’s a total that dwarfs many members of the Hall of Fame. The fact that many of “Flit’s” base hits were singles – and not homeruns – must be the reason why he isn’t in the Hall of Fame where he belongs.
Flit had the dubious “honor” of breaking in with the Athletics in 1929. At that time, the A’s were the finest organization in baseball, with legends like Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and Al Simmons. They won the ’29 World Series with an outfield of Simmons, Bing Miller and Mule Haas – none of whom hit below .310. Doc played sparingly for the Champion A’s of 1930 and steadily saw more playing time as the years went by. In ’31, Al Simmons hit .390 but Bing Miller was beginning to show his age. The time was right for Doc to grab Bing’s job. Cramer split time with Miller in ’32 but with his .332 BA – second to Jimmie Foxx on the club – Flit proved to Connie Mack that he was ready for everyday duty in 1933.
Connie Mack sold stalwarts Al Simmons and Jimmie Dykes to the White Sox, thus opening the door for Doc to grab everyday duty. Inserted as the regular center fielder, Doc paced AL middle pasture gardeners with 109 runs and 195 hits in ’33. The following year, Connie Mack’s little slap-hitter paced AL outfielders with 202 hits. Flit ratcheted up his total in ’35, slapping 214 safeties – third highest total in the American League. Doc made his first of five All-Star appearances in 1935.
The A’s dynasty had officially fallen – the last dynasty the legendary Connie Mack would assemble – and Mr. Mack needed cash so he shipped Doc and slugging teammate Jimmie Foxx to the Red Sox in the same off season. In 1937, Doc was the only player in the American League with at least 500 at-bats that didn’t strikeout 20 times during the season. This was Doc’s trademark: slapping singles with exceptional bat control. Flit only exceeded the 30 strikeout mark on two separate occasions in his career.
Doc’s stick may not have made the loud, thunderous music of the sluggers of his time, but his bat sang with the melodic consistency of a songbird: sweet and subtle. Joe DiMaggio watched as Doc banged out more hits than him in 1938 – 4 more safeties than Joe D and Lloyd Waner – thus leading all Major League center fielders with 198. Doc’s small ball style helped him score two more runs than Joe DiMaggio in ’39 – for a far worse Red Sox team – while also tallying seven more hits than the Yankee Clipper.
Doc tied for the league lead with 200 hits in 1940 and for his troubles, he was traded to the Washington Senators. Doc played one lone year for the Senators before a trade sent him to Detroit. In Flit’s first year as a Tiger, he led the AL with 630 at-bats yet only struck out 18 times all season. He was the hardest player to strikeout in 1943 – fanning a grand total of 13 times in 606 at-bats. He got a taste of World Series action in 1945 and hit .379 as a 39 year old veteran. His playing time shrunk as he reached his 40s and the younger players were coming back from their stint in the military during WWII.
While talking with former Major Leaguer Red Borom – who teamed with Doc on the ’45 Champion Tigers – Mr. Borom told me that Cramer was one of the finest hitters and defensive outfielders he ever saw. Mr. Borom was well aware that Doc had been passed over by Hall of Fame voters because he rapped out singles and not homeruns like his peers. But Cramer was a terrific contact hitter – slapping out 2,705 career hits while striking out just 345 times in his career. On two occasions in his career, Flit had more sacrifices than strikeouts – neither Joe DiMaggio nor Ted Williams ever achieved this feat.
Doc Cramer’s career stats: G 2,239/R 1,357/H 2,705/2B 396/3B 109/RBI 842/BB 572/SO 345/BA .296/SA .375