The Leanest Year, 1933
IN 1932 nobody in the major leagues except the two pennant winners had made any money. The Chicago Cubs' 990,000 led the majors in attendance, although that was a drop of more than 500,000 from 1930. The St. Louis Cardinals, who'd won everything the previous October, drew some 333,000—only 20,000 or so more than what their Columbus farm club, under Larry MacPhail's direction, was able to attract. Again led by Chuck Klein (.348, thirty-eight homers, 137 RBIs), the PhiladelphiaPhillies topped the majors in team batting average and the National League in runs and soared to fourth place, their best showing in many years. Yet they enticed little more than 206,000 people into little Baker Bowl. Even those figures would have looked good to Phil Ball, sole owner but co-occupant of Sportsman's Park, whose 1932 St. Louis Browns played at home before a grand total of 82,000—give or take a few hundred.
In Washington, D.C., Clark Griffith saved some money by firing Walter Johnson and, as he'd done eight years earlier, naming a “boy manager.” In 1924 it had been Stanley “Bucky” Harris, a twenty-seven-year-old second baseman who led the Senators to back-to-back pennants. Now Griffith turned to Joe Cronin, his hard-hitting shortstop, timing the announcement for Cronin's twenty-sixth birthday on October 12. Already a five-year American Leaguer, the broad-shouldered San Franciscan would never be more than a passable shortstop, but he was one of the top run producers ever to play the position, with 368 runs batted in over the past three seasons. Young Cronin didn't see anything particularly complex about his new duties.