A Case for Doc Cramer

The fact that Hall of Fame voters are gluttons for power hitters isn’t a shocking revelation to those who have followed Hall of Fame voting over the years.  How else can guys like Reggie Jackson and Harmon Killebrew make the Hall without the obsession for power?  It is this craving for the over-the-fence crushers that have left guys like Doc Cramer, great well-rounded ballplayers, on the outside of Cooperstown’s hallowed ground.  Cramer wasn’t a big blaster in the Jimmie Foxx mold but he was a valuable man at the top of the order and a gifted center fielder.

Cramer broke in with the Philadelphia A’s when they were at their best.  Connie Mack had built his final dynasty late in the 1920s and Cramer was an understudy during Mr. Mack’s last great squad.  The Mackmen had an outfield of Hall of Famer Al Simmons and two stars named Bing Miller and Mule Haas.  The outfield picture was crowded but thanks to the Depression, Mr. Mack was forced to sell his stars to get out of the red which opened the door for Doc.  This door, which had been slightly ajar, is what keeps him out of the Hall of Fame.  Had he not been an understudy to Miller and Haas, “Flit” would have reached 3,000 career hits–a Hall of Fame benchmark.  The years Cramer spelled Mack’s star go-getters were some of the most explosive offensive seasons in baseball history.  Hack Wilson set his single season RBI record in 1930 while Cramer served as a back-up.  He could have missed out on anywhere from 450 to 500 base hits.

After the fire sale, Connie Mack inserted Cramer into the everyday lineup and he established himself as one the greatest bat handlers of his era.  A top-of-the-order hitter, Doc typically journeyed to the dish in the excess of 600 times a season and only on two occasions did he exceed 30 strikeouts in a single campaign.  The left-handed hitter made the Top Five in the most difficult batter to strikeout department a whopping nine times over the course of his career. 

When one looks at Doc Cramer’s career stats what typically jumps out at them are his career hits total.  Flit was able to bang out 2,705 career safeties over the course of his career, more hits than other notable Hall of Famers like Fred Clarke, Max Carey, Richie Ashburn, Harry Heilmann and era peers Heinie Manush and Lloyd Waner.  His career total is the highest amount of base hits among those Hall of Fame eligible players who played before World War II.  No other player, currently outside the Hall of Fame, who debuted before the bombing at Pearl Harbor, has more base hits than Connie Mack’s solid little center fielder. 

Some of Cramer’s Hall of Fame peers, those men who played in roughly the same era and the same position, are sluggers Hack Wilson and Earl Averill and the Pittsburgh Pirate Lloyd Waner, who is quite comparable to Doc.  Cramer’s career runs scored total and base hit total exceed each of his Hall of Fame peers.  Doc scored 1,357 runs and notched 2,705 hits.  Earl Averill scored 1,224 runs and posted 2,019 safeties.  Lloyd Waner scored 1,201 runs and tallied 2,459 hits and the stocky Hack Wilson was well behind the others in these two key departments with just 884 runs and 1,461 hits–but he was the most powerful.  Doc’s nine seasons with 90 or more runs scored outdistanced both Waner’s (6) and Wilson’s (4) career totals.

Defensively, Waner is comparable to Cramer but Wilson and Averill aren’t.  Doc is 12th all-time in career putouts among outfielders, which far exceeds his Hall of Fame peers.  His career putouts total also rests above such Cooperstown elites as Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline and Edd Roush–all quite gifted defenders.  Doc was a three-time fielding percentage champ among center fielders but he won his fielding percentage titles after he left the sinking ship that was Connie Mack’s Athletics of the mid 1930s. 

When one analyzes a player for the Hall of Fame they typically judge the overlooked star to his enshrined contemporaries.  Lloyd Waner, the Pirates hit-machine, is about as equal of a player to Cramer was you can get.  Each man were line-drive hitters who swung from the left side of the dish, lashing out hard hit singles and not the bombs that Wilson and Averill hit.  They were both exceptional defenders who rest quite high in the all-time putouts department and each player was a gifted batsman who hardly ever struck out.  Cramer and Waner weren’t the type of batters that gave away at-bat after at-bat by whiffing in large quantities–they were quite the reverse, putting the ball in play nearly every at-bat.

Both Lloyd Waner and Doc Cramer were table setters who hit near the top of the order which allowed them to score plenty runs but limited their RBI chances.  Be that as it may, Waner, who played with some strong Pirate teams, wasn’t quite the run producer that Cramer was.  Over the course of his career, Waner drove in an average of 0.309 runners per game.  Cramer was well ahead of him in this department with a 0.376 average.  And it must be added, Waner was at his peak during the great offensive years when Cramer was still a reserve.  In 1930, when Waner was in his prime, there were nine Major League teams that hit for a combined average above .300.  When Doc was at the top of his game, in 1935, there weren’t any such teams in the Major Leagues.  In 1935, Doc hit .332 while the A’s as a team hit .279. 

Although Waner had one more 200 hit season than Cramer, Doc tallied more career base hits than Lloyd.  Each player had three 100 runs scored seasons and although neither one was much of a slugger, they hit for solid batting averages and were wizards at making contact.  Had Doc sent more balls over the fence, like teammate Jimmie Foxx, he would almost certainly be a lock for the Hall of Fame.  He came up just 295 base hits shy of the coveted 3,000 plateau and was such a solid outfielder that he was still patrolling center field at the age of 40.  Flit may not have hit 500 homeruns, but he was valuable man on a team.  If the lust for muscle should ever subside, then, perhaps, Doc Cramer will make his way to Cooperstown.

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