Although Monte Cross never set the league afire with his hitting, he was an elite defender at short during the Deadball Era. He didn’t hit with Honus or Dahlen but Cross flashed leather with the best of them. Cross was so highly regarded for his defensive work that he played 15 seasons in the Majors despite his weak hitting. The wiry shortstop was often among the leaders in defensive stats. To this day, Monte rests at the 14th spot in career putouts among shortstops.
Cross made his Major League debut in 1892 with the old Baltimore Orioles of the National League. His weak stickwork couldn’t keep him around and the Orioles cut ties with Monte thereafter. He resurfaced in the Majors in 1894 for a spell with the Pirates in the decade before Honus established himself as the everyday shortstop in Pittsburgh. Cross began to play regularly in 1895 and legged out a career high 13 triples that season. Although he wasn’t a heavy hitter, Monte got by offensively on his above average speed and decent walk-drawing abilities.
After a full season with the Pirates, Monte joined the St. Louis Browns in 1896. The following year he enjoyed his best offensive season when he established career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average. Defensively, he led shortstops with 516 assists. But beginning the following year Monte started a string of sixth consecutive seasons in which he paced the league in putouts at short. He recorded 404 putouts in 1898, which would be his career high for a season. By this time he had joined the Phillies and performed his defensive feats in Philadelphia.
In 1899 Monte set career highs in runs scored and base hits but on into the new century his offensive work would dry up and he’d have to rely on his glove for the reminder of his days. That wasn’t a difficult task for the slick-fielder. Cross recorded a league best 339 putouts in 1900. He led the NL in that department again in 1901 but his batting average fell to an all-time low of .197 that season. However, with the American League in full swing, the new circuit was raiding the rosters of the established National League and Monte jumped the Phillies and signed with Connie Mack’s crosstown Athletics. Cross had two so-so years with the lumber under Mr. Mack and again led the league in putouts both seasons.
But when Monte’s bat completely deteriorated in 1904, Mack couldn’t tread water with an automatic out in his lineup, no matter how sound he was defensively. Mack platooned Cross at short in his flag-winning season of 1905 with nineteen-year-old phenom Jack Knight. The limited work helped Cross’ batting average as he hit .266 in a part-time capacity. In his only World Series action, Monte was overmatched by Giants pitching and hit just .176 with seven strikeouts. But Schoolboy Knight never did take off like expected and Cross played regularly for the Mackmen again in 1906. Monte hit an even .200 but pilfered 22 bags at the ripe old age of 36, which gave him eight seasons with 20 or more thefts. Cross played one final year in the Majors in 1907.
G 1,684/R 719/H 1,365/2B 232/3B 68/HR 31/RBI 621/SB 328/BB 616/SO 710/BA .234/OBP .316/SA .313