Name: Frank Peter Joseph “Frankie” Crosetti
Born: October 4, 1910 (San Francisco, CA)
Died: February 11, 2002 (Stockton, CA)
Yankee Years: 1932-48
Primary number: 1 (player), 2 (coach)
Yankee statistics: 1,683 G, .245/.341/.354, 260 2B, 65 3B, 98 HR, 89 wRC+, 23.9 rWAR, 27.8 fWAR
Frankie Crosetti might not have been a particularly impressive hitter, but he was good enough to win 17 World Series titles with the Yankees: eight as a player and nine as a coach. His high baseball IQ, excellent defensive skills and incredible loyalty are traits that will give “Cro” a privileged, permanent place in franchise history.
West Coast Little Italy
Crosetti was born on October 4, 1910, in San Francisco. He grew up in North Beach, a neighborhood historically known as “Little Italy” due to its large Italian-American population: Tony Lazzeri, Charlie Silvera, and most famously, Joe DiMaggio, all hailed from the same general area.
Crosetti was the son of Italian immigrants. His full name was Frank Peter Joseph Crosetti, and he was around baseball from a very young age with an assist from his older brother, John. Frank said his mother, Rachele Crosetti, was “on the strict side” and that he and his brother initially resented it. “But as we grew older we were thankful that she was. She was right, it kept us out of trouble, as it does not take much to go on the other side of the tracks.”
As a child, Crosetti often fell ill, so his family relocated to Santa Clara and Los Gatos before going back to San Francisco around the time he started high school. Per David Hegler of The Gold Nuggett, Crosetti “skipped two straight weeks of school to watch the San Francisco Seals play,” and dropped out of high school at age 16.
He ended up signing and playing for the Pacific Coast League powerhouse Seals, but played for the Butte Mining League before that. When the skinny Crosetti bulked up enough, he was allowed to play for the Seals and started captivating everyone with his talent, even homering against major league competition (the Pittsburgh Pirates) in a 1928 exhibition game.
Crosetti played third base and shortstop for the Seals. His batting average progression was impressive in the late 1920s: he hit .248 in 1928, .314 in 2019 and .334 in 1930, with 27 home runs, 18 stolen bases and 171 runs, leading the circuit.
Starting Off His Career In Style
The Yankees, of course, had their eye on Crosetti after the impressive performances. With an assist from super-scout Bill Essick, who had also signed Lazzeri, they signed Crosetti for $75,000 and left him in San Francisco one more year, in 1931, to get more experience. He joined the Bombers in 1932.
After winning the Fall Classic in 1927 and 1928, Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics dominated the scene in 1929 and 1930, though the St. Louis Cardinals taking the title home over the Mackmen in 1931. However, Philly fell back again a bit in ‘32, allowing Babe Ruth and company to get back into the Fall Classic.
That year marked Crosetti’s MLB debut. He slashed .241/.335/.374 with 5 home runs, 20 doubles, 9 triple, 57 RBI, 51 walks, 51 strikeouts, and a .709 OPS. He was 21 for the whole campaign. Those numbers — and mostly his acclaimed glovework — helped him grab ahold of the Yankees’ shortstop position and win the World Series in his first season as an MLB player, as the Bombers swept the Chicago Cubs.
From a very early age, Crosetti, who earned the nickname “The Crow” (or just “Cro”) built a reputation as a “holler.” According to his SABR bio page, his manager Joe McCarthy wanted to have the team snap out of an ugly stretch and “used” him to achieve this goal. Crosetti grew to idolize the serious-but-successful McCarthy and adopt his principles.
Mastering The Art Of Hollering
McCarthy told Crosetti that first baseman Lou Gehrig looked a bit too apathetic at first base. “When you get the ball in infield practice, fire it back hard at Gehrig. Holler at him. See if you can’t wake him up,” the skipper told the rookie.
Crosetti did just that and told some hilarious stories about the Iron Horse. “(…) Gehrig was giving me dirty looks. I remember him saying, ‘If I get ahold of you, I will break you in half!’ – which he easily could have done!” Tara Krieger wrote on Frankie’s SABR page. In the end, it was the first-year infielder the one who needed the extra motivation, and that “loud” style stuck for years and became one of his most famous traits.
Four years later, in 1936, the Yankees would win the World Series again and Crosetti, who was 25, had the finest season of his career. It was the only time in his MLB tenure that his OPS was higher than .800: .824 to be more specific. The infielder slashed .288/.387/.437 that year, with 15 home runs, 78 RBI, 90 walks, 18 thefts, 35 doubles, 7 triples, and a whopping 137 runs. For the first time, he was an MLB All-Star.
1936 was also the first of five-straight years for Crosetti of leading the majors (not just the AL) in hit by pitches. From 1936-40, he got plunked 62 times, a mark that even Craig Biggio would applaud.
That was DiMaggio’s first season as a major leaguer, and the Yankees went on to beat crosstown rivals New York Giants for the World Series title. Crosetti was on top of the world.
The 1936 Fall Classic victory was, in fact, the first of an incredible four consecutive championships for McCarthy’s Bombers, and Crosetti was an important contributor in each one of them. In 1938, he stole a career-high 27 bases, leading the American League, and had an incredible 1.056 OPS in the World Series, driving in six runs. He would’ve had a case for World Series MVP if the award existed, though ace Red Ruffing dominated in his own right.
A Two-Time All-Star
Crosetti made his second All-Star Game in 1939, scoring 109 runs, doubling 25 times and homering 10 times. From 1936-39, he scored 100+ runs every year, but he began to decline in 1940, when he had a poor .572 OPS. Crosetti’s bad performance motivated the Yankees to make a change, and they gave a young Phil Rizzuto the shortstop job over Crosetti (though he still won another championship in ‘41).
Rizzuto left for the Navy to battle in World War II, however, and Crosetti took up the vacant position in 1943. The Yankees won their third consecutive AL pennant and avenged their ‘42 World Series loss to St. Louis by dispatching the Cardinals in five games. Crosetti played 95 games, posting a poor .596 OPS. He did rebound in the Fall Classic with a .278 average and the perfect example of his quiet contributions with what turned out to be a game-winning sacrifice fly in the 2-1 victory in Game 4.
Rizzuto returned from military service in 1946, and Crosetti was a player/coach until retiring in 1948. That still gave him time to win one last World Series as a player in 1947, when he made just one plate appearance all year while focusing on his coaching duties.
And so it was that arguably Crosetti’s biggest contribution in his late-career years was taking Rizzuto under his wing. He taught him, according to Crosetti’s SABR page, “how to position himself on each pitch, and how to bluff a bunt. He let him in on the secrets of being hit by a pitch and how to pull off the hidden-ball trick.”
In total, Crosetti won a remarkable eight World Series as a player. He was the definition of a pro: rock-solid defense, solid power at peak, some speed, high energy and a contagious optimism and enthusiasm.
The Most Annoying .245 Hitter You Will See
Writers said that Crosetti was “one of the most annoying .245 batters that baseball ever had’, and all-time great Rogers Hornsby had some incredible praise for him, too: “Crosetti is the sparkplug of the Yankees. Without him they wouldn’t have a chance. He is a great player and he is about the only one on the club who does any hollering.”
Crosetti walked away with a .245/.341/.354 batting line, 98 home runs, 1,006 runs scored, 649 RBI and 113 stolen bases in 1,683 games. He accumulated 1,541 hits and had an 89 wRC+ and 27.8 fWAR.
Again, offensive rate stats didn’t have him as an all-time great, but his totals were very solid, especially the hits and the runs. To get to those totals you have to be good enough to play nearly every day for years, and Crosetti definitely fit the bill while holding down the six.
A Well-Decorated Coach
In his first season after retiring as an active player, Crosetti would become the Yankees’ full-time third base coach. He kept that job title until 1968 and added nine additional World Series to his resume, to give him 17 in total: 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, and 1962.
During his coaching career, many teams approached Crosetti, who had incredible baseball knowledge (from stealing signs to infield positioning to knowing what pitch the hurler was about to throw by looking at certain patterns), to manage. However, he had no interest in that whatsoever, as he thoroughly enjoyed his coaching job with the Yankees.
Here’s a good excerpt from a past PSA bio on Crosetti with more on his coaching:
Thanks to a combination of $142,989.30 in total World Series check earnings and smart real estate investments, Crosetti became a wealthy man. The Yankees eventually eschewed giving him rings in favor of engraved shotguns, tokens that he preferred. He remained stern, refusing to deal with the press (whom he never liked), and unrelenting on even Mickey Mantle when his knees were shot. He was such a stickler that for several years, he would chase after fans who tried to run off with balls hit into the foul territory stands during batting practice. It was said that the only time Crosetti shook hands with players after homers were when Mantle hit his 500th home run, when Roger Maris tied and broke Ruth’s single season record, and, while coaching with the Twins near the end, when Harmon Killebrew joined Mantle in the 500-homer club.
The 1968 season was his last one with the Yanks as a coach. He joined an expansion MLB franchise, the Seattle Pilots, to coach in 1969, though as noted by Jim Bouton in Ball Four, it was not exactly a sunny experience. When the Pilots moved west for Milwaukee in 1970, Crosetti went that way as well ... but stopped in Minnesota instead. He joined the staff of new Minnesota Twins manager Bill Rigney (a fellow Bay Area native) and helped them win the AL West in 1970. They were swept in the ALCS, and after one last season in ‘71, Crosetti retired for good.
Crosetti remained connected with the Yankees for decades, participating in multiple authors’ biographies as well. He had a long memory that came in handy for chronicling all those years of Yankees glory. “Cro” passed away in 2002, at the age of 91. He was survived by his wife Norma, whom he married in 1938, and his children, Ellen and John.
Words can’t begin to describe what he meant to the Yankees. He was usually the weak link in their lineup (the Yankees from the 1930s and the 1940s were incredible good), but he was a sure-handed fielder, a smart baseball man, and a great teammate. Crosetti played with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, and Yogi Berra; and he also coached Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, and other elite players. He covers a lot of the Yankees’ best years throughout history.
The Yankees had three World Series championships when Crosetti made his MLB debut as a player. When he left the organization as a coach 36 years later, they had a whopping 20. That should tell you enough.
Staff rank: 74
Community rank: 67
Stats rank: 50
2013 rank: 54
Appel, Marty. Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012.
Halberstam, David. Summer of ‘49. New York: HarperCollins, 1989.
Leavy, Jane. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
Krieger, Tara. SABR Bio