Gavvy Cravath was the Philadelphia Phillies right fielder and cleanup hitter in the early 1900s. He took advantage of the Baker Bowl's crazy dimensions and hit long balls in an era that would otherwise reject them. His talents were rare for a player in the 1910s and Phillies fans adored him for that.
Cravath’s full name is Clifford Carlton Cravath, but he earned his nickname “Gavvy” playing semi-pro ball in Santa Ana, Calif. It is said that during a game, Cravath crushed a ball so high and far that it actually hit and killed a seagull flying above.
The Mexican fans at the game were shouting “Gaviota!” which is Spanish for seagull. The American fans thought it was a chant, and they joined in. Quickly, the nickname stuck and everyone would chant for “Gavvy” as he came to the plate. Cravath loved the nickname so much that he even signed baseballs using his new name.
Gavvy would go on to play pro ball in California and was sold to the Boston Red Sox prior to the 1908 MLB season where he would make his major league debut. He only lasted one season with the Red Sox before heading to the Chicago White Sox and the Washington Senators in 1909.
He stayed primarily in the minors for the following few years before his contract was picked up by the Phillies in 1912. It was in Philly where his greatness would finally be recognized.
In just nine seasons with the team, Gavvy would hit 117 home runs, collect 676 RBI, and smack 1,054 hits. He slashed an impressive .291/.381/.489 with an .871 OPS.
Here are some of his greatest career achievements:
- Phillies Wall of Fame
- 2nd place in MVP voting - 1913
- 6x home run champion
- Career .380 OBP - 185th all time
- Career 151 adjusted OPS+ - 35th all time
Cravath’s seven-year stretch from 1913 to 1919 is one of the most impressive runs in the history of MLB.
In 1913, Cravath finished in second place for MVP voting, although he likely deserved the nod for the award. He led the league in home runs (19), hits (179), RBI (128), slugging (.568), OPS (.974), and total bases (298). His 128 RBI would be the record for most in a single season until 1922 when Rogers Hornsby batted in 152 runs.
While Cravath’s 1913 season was the best individual performance of his career, he was even more valuable to the team in 1915. That season, Cravath hit a career high 24 home runs and led the league in eight major offensive categories. He was the centerpiece offensively of the Phillies magical NL Pennant run. The Phillies won the National League that year, seven games ahead of the second place Boston Braves and were heading to their first ever World Series.
The Phillies won Game 1 of the World Series 3-1 as Cravath drove in one run and drew a walk. The Red Sox would win the next four games in a row and take the championship title, but the Phillies pulled off an impressive season that wouldn’t be matched by the franchise again until they won their second NL Pennant in 1950.
Cravath continued to dominate the National League for a few years and even became the manager for the Phillies during the 1919 and 1920 seasons where he would lead the team and play simultaneously. He retired from the game after 1920 and went on to become a judge in Laguna Beach, Calif.
Gavvy’s career 119 home runs were the most in major league history for just a few seasons, as Babe Ruth quickly surpassed that mark in 1921. It stood as the National League record until 1923 when Cy Williams took the crown.
Regardless, Cravath was one of the most legendary figures that Phillies fans had ever seen. He paved the way for sluggers in the “dead-ball era” who were too slow to steal bases, but didn’t need to because they could put the ball into the stands. He is a Phillies legend by every sense of the word and his accomplishments will never be forgotten.
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