Born: July 22, 1905
Died: September 9, 1990
Town: Beach Haven, New Jersey
Roger Maxwell Cramer was born July 22, 1905 in Beach Haven. As a young man, he showed an interest in medicine, and soon his friends were calling him Doc. He was quick and coordinated, two talents that made him a superb judge of batted balls and almost impossible to strike out. Doc’s prowess as a spray hitter in semipro ball eventually caught the attention of the Philadelphia A’s, who signed him to a contract in 1929 at the age of 23. He batted over .400 and was rewarded with a late-September call-up and got into two games with the A’s, who were on their way to a World Series championship that fall.
Doc returned to Philadelphia the following summer after batting .347 in the minors. The A’s won the World Series again, but Doc did not play. In 1931, Doc was a sub for the A’s as they won their third straight pennant. This time he came to the plate twice. He got one hit, a two-run single.
Doc finally cracked the starting lineup in 1932, replacing aging star Bing Miller. He was second on the team with a .336 average. In a June game against the White Sox, Doc rapped out six hits. He would have another six-hit game three years later, tying a record first set by former teammate Jimmie Foxx, and later matched by Kirby Puckett. Only Doc, however, was a perfect 6-for-6 both times. It was as a defensive player, however, that Doc earned his keep. He was death to flies—indeed, his nickname was Flit, a brand of bug spray popular during the 1930s.
In 1933, Doc batted leadoff and played center field. He led the AL in at-bats, and would do so six more times in his career. Doc topped 200 hits in 1934 and 1935; his 214 in 1935 is still an A’s record for left-handed hitters. Doc also played in his first All-Star Game in 1935. In all, he would suit up for the Midseason Classic five times. The cash-strapped A’s dismantled their club in 1936. Doc and Jimmie Foxx landed with the Red Sox. In his five years in Boston he batted between .292 and .311 each season, and led the AL with 200 hits in 1940.
In 1941, the Red Sox swapped Doc to the Washington Senators for stolen base specialist Gee Walker. He spent one season in the nation’s capital before moving on to Detroit, where he finished his career with Tigers. Doc was a regular for the team throughout the war years; he was too old to fight, but had enough left to earn a handful of MVP votes in 1943, 1944 and 1945.
In 1945, his last season as a regular, Doc got to play in all seven games of a thrilling World Series win over the Cubs. He had 11 hits and batted a team-best .379. Doc hung on for a few more years, playing his last game in the majors in 1948 and his last game in the minors in 1950 at age 44. His lifetime average as a big leaguer was .296 and he amassed 2,705 hits in his career. Had Doc not broken in with a pennant-winner, 3,000 hits would have been within reach. He is one of only a handful of players to log over 2,000 games in center field.
Doc worked as a coach after retiring as a player. He is credited with tutoring Hall of Famer Nellie Fox, who was a carbon copy of Doc at the plate. After baseball, Doc lived in Manahawkin. He died there in 1990, however his memory lives on thanks to Doc Cramer Blvd., which runs parallel to the Garden State Parkway, off Barnegat Rd. He is also remembered by hundreds of former youth league players for his participation in local baseball programs in the area during from the 1950s to the 1980s.