Joe Cronin: A Life in Baseball

By Puerzer, Richard | Nine, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Joe Cronin: A Life in Baseball


Puerzer, Richard, Nine


Mark Armour. Joe Cronin: A Life in Baseball. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010. 382 pp. Cloth, $31.95.

Despite the fact that Joe Cronin is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame based on his merits as a player, and that he managed the Boston Red Sox longer than anyone else in history, his name likely does not spring to mind when thinking of the most important men in baseball history. However as Mark Armour deftly makes clear in this superb biography, in his roles as player, manager, general manager, and league president, Cronin made an important mark on the game.

Joe Cronin was born in San Francisco in 1906, just a few months after what became known as "the great earthquake." As an eighteen year old, he was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and began his professional career playing in the minor leagues. The following year, Cronin found himself in the majors trying to establish a place on the big-league roster. After a great deal of work in learning how to play shortstop in the majors, but not yet established with the Pirates, Cronin was signed by the Washington Senators. Armour focuses on the multiple ways in which Cronin's time with the Senators launched him to baseball immortality. First and foremost, he became a star at shortstop. He also gained the trust of Senators owner Clark Griffith, which meant that he was not only named player-manager at age twenty-six, but later was married to Griffith's niece. In his first season as player-manager in 1933, Cronin led the Senators to the World Series. Following a disappointing 1934 season, and perhaps also due to claims of nepotism, Cronin was sold to the Boston Red Sox, where he would again see great success as both player and manager.

Armour recounts Cronin's years playing and managing the Red Sox in great detail. The Red Sox of this era featured very good teams, but teams that were consistently caught behind the Yankees in the American League. Cronin, a quiet leader, dealt with several not so quiet personalities on these teams, including Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams. Describing Cronin's relationship with Red Sox fans early in his tenure with the team, Armour compares Cronin to Alex Rodriguez. Another perhaps equally apt comparison from a career-long perspective could be made to Derek Jeter. Just as Jeter does today, Cronin played shortstop, drew criticism from some for his defensive prowess, served as a quiet yet recognized team leader, avoided controversy, and was held in high esteem by his peers.

After the end of his playing career in 1945, Cronin stayed on as the Red Sox manager, leading them to the American League pennant in 1946. …

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