Crawford is most famous for hitting triples, 312 of them over a 19-year career, first on the all-time list. Second on the all-time triples list is Ty Cobb, who batted third in front of Crawford for the Tigers following the birth of the American League. The order is ironic because although the two were teammates, and often pulled off some uniquely synchronized double steals, the normally easy-going Crawford despised the fiery Cobb.
Crawford was nicknamed Wahoo Sam after his birthplace, Wahoo, Nebraska. A former barber, Crawford started out with the Cincinnati Reds in 1899 and hit a then-astounding total of 16 HR in 1901. In 1903 he jumped to the Tigers and led the American League in triples with 25. What is often forgotten about Crawford was his power to drive the ball over fences as well as between fielders; he hit 97 career HR, and at his retirement held the AL career record with 70. In 1908, Crawford led the AL in homers with seven, and so became the only player in baseball history to lead both leagues in homers.
Although they disliked each other, Cobb and Crawford worked closely together on the bases. Cobb, either by steals or by a triple, would often be standing at third when Crawford came to bat. Crawford was often walked. Crawford would jaunt easily to first and then, on cue from Cobb, switch into high gear and take off for second. At the same time, Cobb would break for home. “Sometimes they’d get him,” Crawford would later recall, “sometimes they’d get me, and sometimes they wouldn’t get either of us.”
Once Cobb started winning batting titles regularly, fellow lefthanded hitter Crawford began to drive in more than 100 runs a season, leading the league three times in RBI in the 1910s. But, like Cobb, Crawford could find no success in the World Series. The duo’s failures at the bat were the main reasons why the Tigers lost three straight Series in 1907, 1908, and 1909. Crawford’s one shining World Series moment came in Game Five of the 1909 affair when he went 3-for-4 with a double and a homer, but the Tigers lost the game, 8-4, and the Series to Pittsburgh. Crawford ended his career 36 hits shy of 3,000 in 1917, then umpired in the Pacific Coast League for four years.