Joe Cronin had a long and varied career in baseball, spending twenty years in the league as a player and manager before becoming president of the American League for an additional fourteen years. He spent the majority of his career (the final eleven seasons) with the Red Sox as their shortstop from 1935 to 1945, had his number retired by the team, and is in the Hall of Fame.
When looking back at Red Sox players from his era, Cronin is always cited as one of the greats. But a deeper dive shows that while his best seasons were in Boston, that only encompassed five of his two decades as a player. As a member of the Washington Senators for seven seasons prior to arriving in Boston, Cronin was one of the top shortstops in the game, winning the AL MVP award in 1930 and leading the Senators to a pennant in 1933.
He was traded to the Red Sox in 1935 and had a couple of down seasons, hitting .295 with 9 home runs and 95 RBI in 1935 and .281 with 2 home runs and 43 RBI in 1936. He returned to his usual production for the next five seasons, hitting over .300 in four of those years while hitting between 18 and 24 home runs each season (the highest totals of his career). However, after 1941 he went into serious decline and stopped being an everyday player.
From 1942 to his final season in 1945, Cronin batted over .300 three times but only hit 14 total home runs and 82 total RBI in 183 games. In totality, he had five great seasons and six average-to-poor seasons in Boston, finishing his Red Sox career with a .304 average, 119 home runs, and 737 RBI. He made five All-Star teams with the Red Sox in 1935, 1937,1938, 1939, and 1941.
Cronin was player-manager of the Red Sox from 1935-1945 and then just manager in 1946 and 1947. He won one pennant in Boston (1946) and compiled a 906-777 record as the team’s skipper. After stepping down as manager, he took over as General Manager of the Red Sox from 1947 to 1959.
Cronin was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956 on the tenth ballot and while his career numbers (.301 BA, 170 HR, 1424 RBI, 2285 H) warranted it, he really only had seven great seasons where he hit for both high average and power (i.e. double-digit home runs) seven times (twice in Washington, five times in Boston). Like Pesky, his reverence amongst Red Sox fans (and the team itself) seems to have more to do with his years of service to the club more than what he did on the field.