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In his first career, Samuel Newhall Crane (left,, above) was a well-traveled baseball player, primarily a second baseman. He was with eight different teams during his seven seasons in the major leagues between 1880 and 1890. The Springfield, Massachusetts, native was unusually intelligent, but statistics and his inability to remain with any team indicate he was a mediocre player.

When he became prominent in his second career as a New York city sportswriter, however, Crane's reputation as a baseball player improved.

"He was one of the most famous baseball players in a period when the game was still young," wrote Damon Runyon after Crane died in 1925. Others went so far as to say Crane was the best second baseman of his generation, a title which clearly belonged to Bid McPhee, with several runners up who weren't named Crane. (I'd say Crane wasn't good enough to carry McPhee's glove, except McPhee didn't use a glove until very late in his career.)

Samuel Byrem Crane (right, above) came along more than 20 years after his namesake. The younger Sam Crane, a native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was sometimes called "Lucky" or "Red," and was discovered as a teenager by Connie Mack, manager and part-owner of the Philadelphia Athletics, who was especially impressed by the way Crane handled himself in the field. That's why Crane made his major league debut at 19, playing two games at shortstop for the Athletics during the 1914 season. However, he would never live up to his potential, and, like the earlier Sam Crane, he would be an itinerant baseball player, consistently disappointing managers who'd been impressed by his occasional flashes of greatness.

Both Sam Cranes would make headlines for something that had nothing to do with baseball. Each had a scandalous affair. The first Sam Crane became involved with a married woman, the second Sam Crane cheated on his wife with a woman who eventually spurned him, with tragic results.

THE FIRST Sam Crane was a bright young man who'd attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology before deciding to make a living from baseball. By all accounts he was a nice and honorable man in a sport that was neither nice nor honorable at the time.

After playing for minor league teams for three seasons, the 26-year-old Crane reached the major league level in 1880, batting .129 in 10 games for Buffalo, then a member of the National League. Crane apparently played semi-pro baseball for the next two years, but from 1883 to 1890 played for seven more teams that were considered major league. His longest stint was a 115-game stay with the Detroit Wolverines over two seasons (1885 and 1886).

It was with Detroit on June 12, 1886, that Crane entered the major league record book when he hit his only home run of the season. Six teammates also hit home runs, and the record of seven home runs in one game by one team stood for many years.

That game may have been the highlight of Crane's playing career. Soon afterward, Detroit released him — an injured hand was given as the reason, but more likely it was his .141 batting average. He was picked up by the St. Louis Maroons, but their hopes were dashed by Crane's .172 batting average and 22 errors in 39 games.

CRANE ALSO played seven seasons in the minor leagues. In 1887, he joined the Scranton Miners in the fledgling International Association. (That was an interesting league — it was integrated, for one thing‚ and is featured elsewhere in a story about another Crane.

In 1888, Sam Crane remained in Scranton, as player-manager, when the team switched to the Central League. It was in Scranton that he met Mrs. Hattie Fraunfelter, who later would be described in newspapers as attractive, occasionally beautiful, which was par for the course in stories about illicit romances.

Anyone looking for details of their relationship likely will be frustrated because newspaper accounts were often at odds. The spelling of Mrs. Fraunfelter's last name kept changing slightly, and her husband's first name went from Irvin to Irwin to Erwin to Irving, and back again.

The Fraunfelters ran a fruit store which Crane patronized because he boarded in a building a short distance away. Crane was recently divorced, and obviously attracted to Hattie, who told him about her marital difficulties. The nature of Crane's relationship with Mrs. Fraunfelter is open to question, but by October, 1888, soon after the baseball season ended, they had both left Scranton and were living together in New York City.

HATTIE FRAUNFELTER'S life was an incredible soap opera. She was married at the age of 14 to a Dr. Lockerson, who, she said, was from Freehold, New Jersey. She and Dr. Lockerson had four children, three of whom died, as did Lockerson. Soon after she was widowed, she lived as a single mom in Easton, Pennsylvania, and worked as a telegraph operator. She met Fraunfelter, who sweet-talked her into marriage, perhaps because she'd inherited money from her late husband.

She said Fraunfelter had given the impression he was a successful businessman, but she would learn his Scranton fruit store was nearly bankrupt. Hattie gave him money — how much wasn't revealed in the stories that resulted from her relationship with Crane — and she took over the responsibility for the financial affairs of the fruit business.

She had two children by Fraunfelter,, but claimed he abused her and so badly mistreated his stepson that she found another home for the boy. Her husband sometimes blackened her eyes, which was common knowledge in the neighborhood, and she twice tried to leave him, but without her other two children. The first time, she returned voluntarily after a month. The second time, in September, 1888, she went to New York City on her own, but Fraunfelter went after her and convinced her to return. On the train back to Scranton, he threatened to punish her when they arrived home.

Frightened by her husband's threats, she fled from him when they arrived in Scranton, and went into hiding. That's when she contacted Crane in New York City, and asked for his help. Crane went to Scranton, and on October 7, executed the kind of getaway plan you'd expect in a bad movie. He contacted one of his Scranton players, a former major leaguer named Billy Taylor, and asked him to divert a pair of detectives Fraunfelter had hired, so that Crane could sneak Hattie onto a Lehigh Valley train that was headed to Manhattan.

Crane and the woman made their escape, and she moved in with him. Five months passed before Fraunfelter started divorce proceedings, which he halted days later after he learned there was a better way to exact revenge on his wife and the man he believed was her lover — he'd press criminal charges, accusing the ballplayer of larceny, his wife with adultery.

THIS WAS March, 1889. Crane was reduced to playing for a club team, the Metropolitans (the original Mets), who took on all comers, but did not belong to a league.

By this time, because of the accusation against him, Crane was in full fugitive mode. He was playing under the another name, "Morrison," so that his real name would not appear in newspaper box scores. Suddenly, a couple living on New York's East Side were the Morrisons, not Sam Crane and Hattie Fraunfelter.

Meanwhile, a Harrisburg grand jury found there were grounds for the charges against Crane and Mrs. Fraunfelter, and in August, police caught up with them, as reported in the following story, which was headlined in capital letters (albeit small ones): GAY SECOND BASEMAN CRANE ARRESTED FOR RUNNING AWAY WITH A PENNSYLVANIAN’S PRETTY WIFE

The Daily Graphic, August 17, 1889
Samuel Crane, second baseman of the Metropolitan Base Ball Club, was arrested this morning and locked up at the Police Headquarters on the charge of running away with Hattie E. Frauenfelter, the pretty wife of a Scranton fruit dealer. Mrs. Hattie, in russet shoes and baseball cap, was also made captive and locked in a cell adjoining her lover.

The arrest was made by Detectives Lyman and McManus of Inspector Byrnes’s staff, on requisition of the Governor of Pennsylvania, the deserted husband having instituted proceedings under the laws of his state against the runaway couple, charging his wife with adultery and her lover with grand larceny and receiving stolen goods. Frauenfelter’s claim is that his wife took $1,500 belonging to him when she ran away, and gave the money to the baseball man. The detectives found the couple living at 398 East 47th Street.

Mrs. Frauenfelter is pretty and chic. In Inspector Byrnes’s office, she was very indignant. Her eyes flashed as she denounced the arrest as outrageous persecution. She declared that her husband was a scoundrel, that he was bankrupt when she married him and put her money in his business, which she afterward ran in her own name, and that he repaid her with cruelty and neglect.

They were very unhappy. He beat her and intrigued notoriously with other women. A year ago, Crane came upon the scene and learned to know the family. He sympathized with Mrs. Frauenfelter in her troubles. She it was, so she claims, who persuaded him to meet her in this city. She ran away, not with him, if to him, but alone, taking of her own what she did take along. She never gave him a dollar, and assumed the whole responsibility herself.

According to her own story, Mrs. Frauenfelter’s married experience has been both wide and varied, despite her 28 years. She was the wife of Dr. Lockerson of Freehold, N. J., before she was 18, and lived with him happily eight years, bearing him four children. All but one and her first husband are dead.

A widow of only a year, she married the Scranton party, whom she cast off for the baseball player. Her one living child by the doctor, she says, was so cruelly treated by its stepfather that she had to send it away to strangers to be cared for. A boy and girl who were left behind in Pennsylvania were the fruit of the Scranton marriage.

The New York Times version of the story a day later quoted Mrs. Fraunfelter as saying there had been no improper relations between herself and Crane. Today this sounds far-fetched, but in view of what later happened, she may have been telling the truth.

CRANE AND Mrs. Fraunfelter remained in jail for several days, unable to raise bail. Meanwhile, the woman's husband was about to face a bigger problem. Scranton police had rounded up men accused of conspiring to rob Scranton stores, then dispose of the stolen goods at reduced prices in the suburbs. Fraunfelter was involved in this conspiracy, but disappeared before police could arrest him.

So on October 21, when Crane and Mrs. Fraunfelter were finally arraigned in court, her husband was nowhere to be found. The judge directed the jury to return a verdict of "not guilty," released Crane and the woman, and ordered court costs to be paid by Fraunfelter, when he was located. There was a large crowd of sympathetic people outside the courthouse to greet the couple as they left, but Mrs. Fraunfelter reportedly didn't want to face them, so she sneaked out a back door, and, for all intents and purposes, disappeared.

The real nature of Crane's relationship with Mrs. Fraunfelter was never explained. I found no article about her after October, 1889. Whether Fraunfelter was sent to prison, I don't know. Nor do I know the fate of the woman's three children.

[NOTE: The reason I made a point of mentioning that Mrs. Fraunfelter said her first husband was from Freehold, New Jersey, is because of an interesting item I found while attempting to get more information about her. This item became even more interesting when I later found a clipping that said she was working as a telegraph operator when she met her second husband. In 1882, which would be during her first marriage, there was a Dr. Lockerson in Molino, Florida, who was both a physician and a telegraph operator. He also was a victim of yellow fever, which could explain the deaths of three of the Lockerson children.]

CRANE'S LIFE soon improved. He would remarry and have another son, but his immediate future involved a brief return to major league baseball, but only because many of the established players had rebelled and started their own league. Most of the 1889 New York Giants would remain in New York in 1890, but as players on the city's team in the Players League. However, the Giants fielded a team in the National League, and Sam Crane was part of it — for two games. Then he got picked up by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, another National League team, one so bad it won only 23 games that season, losing 113. Crane played poorly, and was cut loose again. He went back to New York, played two more games with the Giants, and retired for good. He was 36 years old.

He probably should have retired much earlier, because he became a very successful and popular sports writer. He also was elected the first president of the Class B Atlantic League in 1894, but resigned the position two years later.

In 1895, Crane used his position as a sportswriter to deliver a blistering criticism of New York Giants owner Andrew Freedman, considered the most detested man in baseball for his high-handed manner and the way he treated his players. From what has been written about Freedman, I get the impression he combined the worst traits of George Steinbrenner and Donald Trump.

As a result of the article, Crane had his press pass revoked by Freedman, who made sure the journalist was kept out of the Polo Grounds even if he tried to buy a ticket. A court soon ordered Freedman to honor Crane's press credentials.

AT THE END of the 1895 season, Freedman further alienated everyone by short-changing his best pitcher, Amos Rusie, who had an off-year, though he won 23 games, the same number he lost. Rusie led the National League in strike outs for the fifth time in six seasons, but the Giants, a second place team in 1894, slipped to ninth place in a 12-team league. Freedman deducted $200 from Rusie's pay, claiming half of it was a fine for breaking curfew one night, the other half was because, in the owner's opinion, Rusie wasn't trying hard enough,

Rusie had won 36 games the season before, and was only 23 years old at the time, having started in the major leagues when he was just 18. Another pitcher, Jouett Meekin had a 33-9 won-lost record in 1894, and slipped to 16-11 in 1895. How Freedman may have punished Meekin was not reported.

The upshot was a lawsuit filed by Rusie, who sat out the 1896 season, while his lawyer, John Montgomery Ward, who had been Rusie's teammate on the 1894 Giants, pursued the case. Rusie wanted $5,000 from Freedman and a release from his contract, which called for a salary of $2,500 or $3,000, depending on the source of your information.

Long story short, the other National League team owners, afraid of the implications in Rusie's lawsuit, coughed up the $5,000, and Freedman paid him $3,000 to return in 1897. Rusie won 28 games (with only 10 losses) in '97, and Jouett was 20-11 as the Giants rose to third place, but Rusie was no longer the overpowering pitcher he had been, though he was only 26. He pitched only one more season with the Giants, winning 20 games, but overwork had taken its toll — he had pitched between 444 and 544 innings each season for five years when he was younger. He didn't play the next two seasons, and finished his career with Cincinnati, making only three pitching appearances before retiring. He'd won 246 games in his first nine seasons, which years later was judged good enough to get him elected to the Hall of Fame.

As for Freedman, he had a different target in 1898, directing his wrath toward another player, outfielder Ducky Holmes of the Baltimore Orioles, in the season's biggest brouhaha.

MEANWHILE, the subject of this piece, Sam Crane, was quietly establishing himself as New York's most respected sportswriter, who would later be given much of the credit for the establishment of the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

In his tribute a day after Crane died in 1925, Damon Runyon said, “He was, without doubt, the most beloved figure the game has ever known, both as player and writer ... He had a kindly, gentle nature. His very presence was softest sunshine. In his heart only flowers grew. His mind never knew malice nor envy nor any mean thought.”

That may well be true, but I can't help wonder what ever happened to Hattie Fraunfelter and her children, and what the real story was about her relationship with Crane.

Sam Crane (left), late in his career. Sportswriter Fred Lieb is in the middle, Damon Runyon's on the right. Crane began his career with the New York Press, then went to William Randolph Hearst's New York Evening Journal.
 

BACK TO the other Sam Crane. Though playing two games for the pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics in 1914, he spent most of the season with the Greensboro Patriots of the North Carolina State League. By the time the 1915 season rolled around, there had been a big shake-up in Philadelphia.

Connie Mack needed money, so he began selling off his best players, and in 1915, the Athletics finished in last place. The team was desperate for players, but not desperate enough to use the 20-year-old Crane in more than eight games. In 1916, he made only two appearances for the A's. He spent most of both seasons in the International League.

The Washington Senators gave him a try in 1917, but he batted only .179, and his fielding percentage was .889, about 50 points less than acceptable. He went back to the minors, and after an okay season with Indianapolis of the American Association in 1919, he earned a spot on the Cincinnati Reds roster in 1920, playing 25 games at shortstop, plus a few games at second base, third base, and the outfield. He returned to the Reds in 1921, again as a utility player, but was traded to the Brooklyn Robins in 1922, and his final visit to the majors ended after just three games.

At 27, Crane did what a lot of players did in those days — he headed west and found a job with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League, where the seasons were long and the pay almost as good as the major leagues. He stuck with Seattle for three full seasons, though his fielding percentage at shortstop was below par, and his hitting worse than most of the regulars. (I gather from what I've read about Crane that he made enough spectacular plays in the field to keep his job.)

In 1925, during his 14th game of the season with Seattle, the shortstop with a .176 batting average made three errors in one inning, and abruptly walked off the field and quit. He packed his things and took his wife, Thelma, whom he had met in Seattle, back home to Pennsylvania, where he spent the rest of the summer playing semi-pro ball.

IN 1926, he returned to the International League, and played for Buffalo of the International League, enjoying his best season as a hitter with a .276 average, which is slightly deceiving because that was the lowest average among team regulars. six of whom batted .318 or higher. However, his wife was unhappy in the east, and longed to return to Seattle. Crane also wanted to leave Buffalo, but only so he could return to Harrisburg, where, in 1928, he became involved with a woman named Della Lyter.

His wife went home to Seattle and divorced him. According to the SABR article by Brian McKenna (linked above), Crane hoped to marry Miss Lyter, but she dumped him and renewed a romance with John D. "Jack" Oren, who had inherited a fortune and a brick sales agency from an uncle. He was frequently seen riding around in a fancy sport car, and seemed to have plenty of female admirers.

On August 3, 1929, Crane got drunk, which would be his excuse for what happened that evening. But he left home with a .38 caliber revolver and went to a bar at Bria's Hotel in Harrisburg and found Ms. Lyter with Oren, who was serenading her with a ukulele. Today that seems almost humorous, but, after all, this was 1929.

He shot Ms. Lyter twice, and Oren went after him with his ukulele, reportedly hitting the former ballplayer on the head, but Crane turned the gun on the "dapper brick salesman" and shot him a couple of times. Oren died five hours later; Ms. Lyter held on for four days at Harrisburg Hospital before she passed away.

CRANE FACED separate trials for second degree murder. In both cases his lawyer, Thomas Caldwell, claimed his defendant was too drunk to know what he was doing. In the first trial, for the killing of Della Mae Lyter, Caldwell attacked the woman's lifestyle, and when he addressed the jury, made an outrageously offensive and insensitive remark regarding one of Crane's victims: "The district attorney will have a hard time telling you a worthwhile life was removed from the community."

This obviously infuriated C. H. Lyter, father of Miss Lyter, who told reporters his daughter had known Oren for four years, but they had quarreled about the time she met Crane. The father said he had warned her against Crane.

There was no doubt Crane was guilty, and he was sentenced to prison for 18-to-36 years at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where — you guessed it — he played for the prison baseball team.

As early as 1934, Crane petitioned for parole, but wasn't released until 1944, despite years of pleading by his first major league manager, Connie Mack, who said, "There is still a chance for Crane to go out in the world and make a living for himself. I will give him a job, take care of him and see that he is looked after."

When Crane was released, he turned down the job Mack offered him, and went to work at a defense plant. Little is known about the rest of his life, except that he died in Philadelphia in 1955, at the age of 61.

[NOTE: It goes without saying, but you can't always believe what you read, especially online, but also in newspapers, though I believe they are much more accurate than years ago when it wasn't so easy to fact-check. The Sam Crane case is a good example of unchecked statements. It was reported — mostly in United Press stories — that Crane had played shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds in 1919 and "thrilled thousands with his play in the World Series." Fact is, in 1919, Crane was shortstop for the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association. He never played a World Series game. This I know for certain; other information I've passed along may not be 100 percent accurate.]

 
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