Our countdown continues with one of the more underrated players in early baseball history -- and arguably the most underrated player on this list so far -- Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Crawford. Crawford and teammate Ty Cobb were two of baseball's earliest stars, leading the Tigers to three consecutive World Series in the early 1900s. Cobb was our top overall player, and now Crawford joins him in the top 10 at #9.
*Played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1899 to 1902.
The oldest player on our countdown so far, Crawford was born on April 18th, 1880, in Wahoo, Nebraska. Nicknamed "Wahoo Sam" in homage to his hometown, he debuted with the Cincinnati Reds in 1899 as a 19 year old. He was a success from the start of his career, hitting .307/.318/.465 with one home run, seven triples, and 20 RBI in 133 plate appearances in his rookie season. In four years for the Reds, Crawford hit .312/.361/.474 with 27 home runs, 60 triples, and 261 RBI.
Crawford signed a contract with the Tigers prior to the 1903 season and would end up spending the last 15 seasons of his career in Detroit. He started off with a bang, hitting .335/.366/.489 with a league-leading 25 triples in his first season with the Tigers.
Over the next 12 seasons, Crawford would lead the league in triples four more times. He had at least 10 triples in 17 of his 19 seasons and still holds the Major League record with 309 career three-baggers. He also holds the record for most inside-the-park home runs in a season with 12 in 1901, his most productive offensive season with the Reds.
Crawford never won a batting title -- in no small part thanks to Cobb's efforts -- but he saved some of his best seasons for the late 1900s when the Tigers won three consecutive AL pennants. From 1907 to 1909, Crawford hit .316/.362/.456 with a combined 804 total bases, 63 stolen bases, and 287 runs scored. He put up a 396 wOBA, 152 wRC+, and 16.6 WAR during that three-year span, all of which were second to Cobb's legendary numbers.
Wahoo Sam remained productive through his later years, putting up 4.0 WAR in 1915, his age 35 season. He tailed off over the last couple years of his career, however. He only played in 161 games in 1916 and '17, hitting a combined .258/.323/.369. He went on to play for the Los Angels (who were in the Pacific Coast League at this time) for four more years before retiring from baseball.
Crawford was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1957. He ranks among the top 10 in Tigers lore in several offensive categories, including WAR (seventh), runs (eighth), hits (fifth), doubles (seventh), triples (second), RBI (fifth), stolen bases (third), and wRC+ (seventh).