The Yankees had their own California Gold Rush in the 1920’s and ’30’s. New York’s favorite mine for the precious metal was the Pacific Coast League, which back then was the equivalent of Major League Baseball for the western United States. The team’s prospecting began with San Francisco native Tony Lazzeri who the Yanks acquired from his Salt Lake City PCL team in August of 1925. Four years later, they struck gold again when they purchased the contract of pitcher Lefty Gomez from the San Francisco Seals. Their most famous western find of course was the great Joe DiMaggio, also born in the City by the Bay and also acquired from the Seals in 1934. In between the Gomez and DiMaggio additions came Frankie “The Crow” Crosetti, who was born on today’s date in 1910 in San Francisco. He spent more seasons in a Yankee uniform than any other human being. These included ten seasons as a starting shortstop, seven more as back-up shortstop and then a twenty-season tenure as New York’s third base coach. Not a force with the bat, Frankie was a good base-runner, an excellent fielder and one of the game’s all-time great sign stealers. He was also a skilled bunter and turned the act of getting hit by a pitch into an art form. He became one of Joe McCarthy’s favorite players.
The Yankees of the 1920s were a rowdy bunch, led by the greatest partier and biggest kid in big league history, Babe Ruth. The Yankees of the thirties eventually became the team of Lou Gehrig and McCarthy. They were all business on the field and much more quiet and reserved off of it. Crosetti joined the Yankees as the club was in the process of transitioning from being Ruth’s team to being Gehrig’s. Picking a side was an easy choice for the Crow.
Crosetti was a quiet guy off the field. In his New York Daily News obituary, the writer describes an evening after a Yankee game on the road, at the team’s hotel. Crosetti, Lazzeri and DiMaggio all came down to the lobby at the same time and sat next to each other for an hour and twenty minutes and not one of the three players said a word to each other.
He finished his playing career with a .245 lifetime average. His on base percentage during that time was almost 100 points higher. He collected 1,546 hits and scored 1,006 runs. He was not a great World Series performer although in the 1936 Fall Classic he drove in six runs in New York’s four-game sweep of the Cubs and also hit his one and only postseason home run off of the great but past-his-prime, Dizzy Dean.
He was also a no-nonsense Yankee coach. Crosetti often threw Yankee batting practices and he demanded that every player work on a specific hitting skill when it was their turn in the cage. If someone started swinging for the fences, Yogi Berra remembered Crosetti would actually just walk off the mound and refuse to throw the guy any more pitches. In his book “Ball Four,” Jim Bouton claimed that Crosetti was useless as a coach and hardly ever spoke to or attempted to instruct Yankee players. Ellie Howard later refuted that charge in his own book, claiming Bouton loved everybody on the team when he was pitching good and then hated and blamed everybody when his career went bad. Crosetti retired as a Yankee coach in 1968 but returned to the coaching box for a short time with both the Pilots and Twins.
He died in 2002, at the age of 91. He owned 17 World Series rings. Actually, Crosetti had accumulated so many rings, the Yankees finally started giving him engraved shotguns instead. In all, Crosetti received 23 World Series paychecks as a Yankee player (9) and coach (14). They totaled $142,989.30.
The Crow shares his October 4th birthday with this long ago Yankee spitballer.
The Yankees began wearing numbers on their uniforms during the 1929 season. At the time, the numbers were assigned based on the player’s batting position in the lineup. This explains how Babe Ruth got the number three and how Yankee cleanup hitter, Lou Gehrig secured number 4. The first Yankee to wear number 5 during that 1929 season was the talented but very moody outfielder, Bob Meusel. In 1930, it was assigned to the great second baseman, Tony “Poosh em Up” Lazzeri. Frank Crosetti was then given the number in 1932 and Lazzeri was switched to number 6. Crosetti wore number 5 for the next four seasons except for a short time, during the 1935 season, when the Crow got hurt and couldn’t play. The Yankees called up Nolen Richardson to take Crosetti’s spot. Richardson was a middle infielder who had played a bit of big league ball for the Tigers before he joined the Yankee organization. Since he was replacing Crosetti, the Yankees gave him uniform number 5. The 32-year-old native of Chattanooga, TN did not see much action in that uniform, appearing in just 12 games that season before getting sent down to New York’s Newark Bears farm club. He became a popular member of the Bears and was the Captain of the 1937 team that is still considered to be one of the greatest teams in minor league history, winning the International League’s pennant that season by 25 1/2 games.
Joe DiMaggio did not get number 5 until 1937, his second season in pinstripes. Crosetti kept the number until 1936. Joltin Joe wore number 9 as a rookie in 1936. Incredibly, the Yankees didn’t even keep number 5 in mothballs during the WWII when Joe D served in the military. Instead, New York’s wartime first baseman, Nick Etten got the number in 1943 and kept it until the Yankee Clipper returned for the 1946 season.
The only other Yankee born on this date was still waiting to make his debut in pinstripes as the 2014 regular season approaches.
|DET (3 yrs)||120||351||324||28||78||14||4||0||30||8||17||17||.241||.279||.309||.587|
|CIN (2 yrs)||36||109||103||8||29||4||0||0||10||0||3||4||.282||.302||.320||.622|
|NYY (1 yr)||12||49||46||3||10||1||1||0||5||0||3||1||.217||.265||.283||.548|