100 Greatest Phillies: 18 – Gavvy Cravath

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, March 09, 2009 04:59 PM | Comments: 15
100 Greatest Phillies, Posts

Gavvy Cravath

Career w/Phillies: .291 AVG / 117 HR / 676 RBI / 80 SB

Part of the 1915 National League championship team, Clifford Carlton Cravath was not just a skilled hitter, but very likely the second best hitter of his time. Between Honus Wagner in the early 1900s and Rogers Hornsby and Babe Ruth in the 1920s, there was Ty Cobb, and there was Gavvy. For seven consecutive seasons he hit more than 20 doubles, averaging 10 triples per season in that period. And he was also a potent home run hitter, maxing at 24 (a single-season “modern-day” record until Babe Ruth broke it in 1919) in that special 1915 season. He led the league in homers that season, and in five other seasons. He led the league in RBI two times, and led the league in OPS three times. He finished second in MVP voting in 1913, when he hit .341 with 19 homers and 128 RBI, a career-best season. These days that would likely be a 60-homer, 160-RBI season. He was that good. Sadly, he never got a great chance in the majors — after starting slow, the White Sox traded him to the Washington Senators, who quickly moved him to a minor-league team. He didn’t get regular playing time until he landed with the Phillies at age 31. The rest, however, is history.

Comment: Gavvy had a seven-year run almost unparalleled in Phillie history. He was easily the National League’s biggest home run threat, and just a downright great offensive player. Compared to those ahead of him, Cravath lacked longevity and superior all-around play. But ultimately, Cravath was — for a couple years — the biggest home run hitter in baseball. Not necessarily a Hall of Famer, he comes eekingly close

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About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1948 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 Jim

    Damn, this may have ruined my top 10

  • Posts: 0 BurrGundy

    If the 1918 Phils had decent pitching they would have likely won the NL Pennant. Their offense included Cy Williams, Irish Meusel, and Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft, along with Gavvy himself. and Fred Laderas at fist base. This was a solid lineup.

  • Posts: 0 John Fire

    hey, unrelated, but saw this on the zo zone –

    The Phillies reassigned the following players to minor-league camp: righthander Yorman Bazardo; infielders Ozzie Chavez, Anthony Hewitt and Terry Tiffee; and outfielders Jeremy Slayden and Chris Walker.

    I’m surprised to see Slayden on this list.

  • Posts: 0 Dan L

    I know, I know…this is Tim’s list, etc. But this is a forum for debate, so I respectfully disagree.

    Cravath dominated the era he played in. he might not have as gaudy numbers as players who will probably come higher in this list (luzinski has to be coming soon) but he was arguably the best player in the game for a few years…players like luzinski werent the best on his team.

    I feel he couldve been higher

  • Posts: 0 Dave S

    I’m with Dan L. But we’ll see the rest of the list.

  • Posts: 0 hamels' left hand

    Dan L makes the most compelling argument on this site yet for a certain players’ misplacement on this list…

    I assumed Cravath was easy top 10

  • Posts: 0 James Kay

    This list is like a work of art. The players are being judged with a good blend of objective statistical parameters as well as subjective intangibles (team value, fan support…) that has included fairly all eras of Phillies baseball. Unless your limiting your argument to a focused comparison of 2 or 3 similar players such as the Burrell/Luzinski/Ennis comparison, condemning (not questioning) the position on the list is a bit of an exercise in futility. The inclusion of active players was a risk that appears to be working out OK judging from their spirited comment logs.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff Y.

    Can’t agree with this one.

  • Posts: 0 James Kay

    What I mean’t but “not questioning” is that questioning OK in contrast to condemning.

  • Posts: 0 Harper

    I can’t believe you forgot the story of how he got his nickname. Gavvy started with the LA Angels of the Pacific Coast League in 1903. Sometime before his contract was sold to the Red Sox in 1907, he hit a ball that killed a seagull in flight. The Spanish for seagull is “gaviota” and Cravath was known as Gavvy ever since.

    One of my favorites.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    I think that Gavvy could have been a few notches higher… one of the best outfielders in franchise history. He hardly received any HOF votes, less than 2%, when he retired. That is mainly because he didn’t have a very long career. It says that the only reason he got a chance in the major leagues at the age of 31 is because the word “not” was inadvertantly left out of a telegram… that’s how legends are born. His OPS+ numbers are unworldly.

  • Posts: 0 Memphis

    Never heard of this guy before this post, but wanted to give him some props. He’s 5th all-time in Phillies history in Adjusted OPS+, per baseball-reference.com, which is probably his most impressive stat. On stats alone, he probably should have won the 1913 MVP, losing to some dude on Brooklyn (who only beat out Cravath in batting average .350 to .341).

    This guy was definitely one of the best players in the league, in his era, based on stats. Very surpsrised to see that he only got MVP votes in 2 years (1913 and 1914), only to see that apparently no MVP award was given from 1915 to 1921. He would have been a top contender for the NL MVP in ’15 after leading the league in HRs, RBI, OBP, SLG, Runs, Total Bases. His biggest competition may have been Pete Alexander. MVPs were odd back then, pitchers were seriously considered, batting average seems to have been valued over power (Babe Ruth only won it once), and being on a pennant winner counted a lot. Then there’s Johnny Evers who won the NL award in 1914 after not finishing in the Top 5 in any offensive statistical category, but his Braves won the pennant and beat the A’s in the World Series. (Sherry Magee had a far, far better year, and finished 7th in the voting.)

    But yeah, only 7 years with the Phils (and years 1913-1915 stand out as his peak). I do wonder how he’ll compare on this list to Abreu and Luzinski (both played about 8.5 years with the Phils) and Dick Allen (8 years, but only 4 years with more than 122 games). Allen is #2 in Adjusted OPS+ in Phillies history and had about 300 more plate appearances than Cravath.

    After learning about him, I could definitely see him ranked a little higher, but not quite Top 10.

  • Posts: 0 Dan L

    Thinking more and more abut Gavvy’s professional journey…if he had played today, how many of us would think he took PED’s?

    Today, a player not having significant major-league success until age 31, and then all of a sudden being the premier power threat in all of baseball, would definitely spark a fair amount of suspicion.

    Just something to think about….

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    By the way… that is an awesome picture, Tim. The other guy is Tris Speaker (both managers, at the time).

  • Posts: 0 Memphis

    I never heard of this guy before this post…but he strikes me as the Phillies version of Roy Hobbs. Tim may overstate his ‘seven-year run’ — three years stand out, 1913-1915, per baseball-reference.com. Looking at modern-day stats, he would easily win the MVP in ’13. His case is weaker in ’14 (though Johnny Evers won without finishing in the Top 5 in any offensive category, screwing over Sherry Magee), but he or Pete Alexander are easily the MVP in 1915 (after he led the league in HRs, RBI, OBP, SLG, Runs, Total Bases, his only relative weakness a .285 batting average) — but no award was given from ’15 to ’21. Anyway, his three peak years are amazing.

    Curious to see how he ranks versus Luzinski and Abreu (about 8.5 years as a Phillie) and Dick Allen (8 seasons, but only 4 with more than 122 games).

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