The Philadelphia Phillies have had two popular players play right field in recent seasons. Long before Jayson Werth and Hunter Pence were seen in town, former right fielder Gavvy Cravath led the majors in home runs in four different seasons. That was also before Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth began to play in the field full-time.
There aren't many fans who can honestly claim that they've heard about this Californian and it's unlikely that anyone will be seen sporting his old school jersey at a future game. But, in a time before the most legendary player in the history of sports began to hit the ball a mile, this Phillie was baseball's power player.
More than a century ago
Cravath broke into the major leagues after the Boston Americans purchased his contract from the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in August 1907. Back in that deadball era, the 10 home runs that the 5 foot 10 inch 185 pounder hit in 182 PCL games that season were quite impressive.
After having played for five seasons in the minor leagues, Cravath probably expected to hit more than a combined three home runs for the Americans, Chicago White Sox and Washington Senators in the 1908 and 1909 seasons. Because his batting averages were also low he returned to play in the minors for another three seasons.
The Phillies purchased him from Minneapolis of the American Association in September 1911 and he went on to play for them from 1912 through 1920.
Home run leader
Right before Babe Ruth forever changed the game, Cravath's major league-leading home run marks were impressive.
He had 19 home runs in 1913, 19 in 1914, 24 in 1915 and 12 in 1917.
The 1915 season was particularly important for two reasons.
That was the first year that the Phillies ever made the postseason, as they played the Ruth's Red Sox team in the Fall Classic. The 'Bambino' was still a pitcher at that time and went 18-8, with a 1.153 WHIP and a 2.44 ERA in the regular season.
Cravath's 24 regular season home runs were more than Hal Chase's 17 home runs for the Buffalo Blues in the Federal League and Braggo Roth's combined 7 home runs for the White Sox and Cleveland Indians in the American League. (The Federal League was a third major league that operated in 1914 and 1915, after which it folded.)
Ruth took over the major league lead in 1918, when his 11 home runs bested Cravath's total by three. In 1919, Ruth's power explosion began. He hit 29 home runs that season, as compared to Cravath's twelve round-trippers.
By the time 'Cactus Gavvy' had retired, children saw seven seasons of double-digit home run totals on the back of his baseball card, with the 1915 season having been his peak power year.
His complete 11 season career totals include: 119 home runs, 719 RBI's, a .287 batting average and an .858 OPS in 1,220 major league games.
Gravath passed away in 1963.
Sean is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight
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