Goldman: Sam Crane, forgotten major-league murderer

From SABR member Steven Goldman at VICE Sports on January 28, 2016:

Some people come within grasping reach of their most fervid wish only to find that in the end, whether through self-sabotage or the unremitting competition that is life, they’re not equal to it. It slips through their fingers. Sometimes it is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can see they were beating themselves bloody against a barrier they never had the capacity to move. Sam Crane was like that.

This week in 1922, the Brooklyn Dodgers acquired Crane, a shortstop and the only American Major Leaguer to be convicted of murder, from the Cincinnati Reds for $7,500 and a player to be named later. This might seem to be various shades of irrelevant: the Brooklyn Dodgers no longer exist and at the moment the Reds barely do, either; Sam Crane played a grand total of 174 games in the majors and did very little to distinguish himself in that time, failing to hit even a single home run. Though a purported defensive specialist, Crane did things like make 16 errors in 32 games at short for the 1917 Washington Senators—another team that doesn’t exist, incidentally—leading to an awesome-in-all-the-wrong-ways .889 fielding percentage. Crane was not a meaningful player in his era, and these things only fade with time. In 1922, Warren Harding was president and King Tut’s tomb was opened; that all seems far removed from us now.

And yet, tales of self-destruction have no expiration date, no coming into fashion or going out of vogue. The elements of Crane’s story are all too familiar, containing the three eternal elements of American tragedy: jealousy, drink, and a gun.

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Originally published: January 29, 2016. Last Updated: January 29, 2016.