Tommy Lee McCraw was born November 21, 1940 in Malvern, Arizona. His family moved to Southern California, and he attended high school in Venice Beach. He then attended Santa Monica Community College.
The speedy first baseman / outfielder got signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1960. In 1962 he won the AA batting title hitting .362 making the big leagues for good the next year. He came up with a lot of promise, as the Sox everyday first baseman right off the bat in his rookie year.
That season (1963) he hit .254 with 6 HRs 33 RBIs & 15 stolen bases. He hit .261 the next year which was his best in his playing years at Chicago. He stole 12 or more bases in each of first three seasons, then 20 or more over the next three years. In 1967 he hit a career best 11 HRs, with 45 RBIs batting .236 while stealing 24 bases (4th in the league).
On May 24th he hit three HRs in a game against the Minnesota Twins, he just missed a fourth sending a Jim Kaat pitch to the warning track. Also that month, he tied an MLB first base record, by committing three errors in one inning. That year he led AL first basemen in assists (93), double plays (103), total chances and errors (20). He was second in the league triples (12) tenth in steals (20) although he only batted .229.
He spent eight years in Chicago wearing the White Sox classic road powder blue road uniforms, before getting sent to the Washington Senators in 1971. That was the teams their last season in the nation’s capitol. He learned how to hit the ball with more force under the direction of Senators manager Ted Williams.
That May he was involved in a very strange play in a game against the Cleveland Indians. McGraw hit a routine infield popup, future Met, shortstop Jack Heidemann, outfielders John Lowenstein &Vada Pinson all ran after the ball & collided. The ball rolled away from the fielders & the speedy Mcraw rounded the bases for an inside the park HR.
He only hit .213 & made the last out in Senators history when he was caught stealing second base. McCraw was traded to Cleveland as the Washington franchise got to Texas.
He hit .258 there but the journey man found himself at home in Anaheim, getting traded for Leo Cardenas in April 1973. He was the Angels first official designated hitter on Opening Day 1973, going 1-4 on that day. He was in the Angels line up on July 15th 1973, going 0-2 with a walk, playing right field when Nolan Ryan threw his second career no hitter.
In 99 games that season he batted .265 with 3 HRs. McCraw had his contract purchased by the Cleveland Indians in 1975, playing for the first African American manager; Frank Robinson. In that season, he & Robinson grew a bond that would last for many years.
McCraw finished his playing career there the next year, in 13 seasons McCraw hit .246 with 972 hits 143 stolen bases, 75 HRs, 150 doubles, 404 RBIs & a .309 on base % playing in 1468 games played.
Retirement: After his playing days he became a long time coach, with the help of the knowledge he had gained as a player under the tutoring of Hall of Famers; Ted Williams & Frank Robinson. McCraw would also serve as a hitting coach under Frank Robinson four different times.
In his career he coached: Cleveland (1975/ 1980-1982) Baltimore (1989-1991) Montreal (2002-2004) & the Nationals in (their first season 2005). He also coached in San Francisco (1983-1985) Houston (1997-2000) & with the New York Mets.
McCraw was the Mets hitting coach for four seasons from 1992-1996. He first served under his old Angels team mate manager Jeff Torborg, then Dallas Green finishing out the year when Bobby Valentine was hired. As for the disastrous 1993 season, McCraw said “The whole season was a long rerun”.
That year the club batted .248 (13th in the league) although they were 4th in HRs (158) & triples (37).The next year they were 13th in batting and fist in the league in striking out. There was improvement in 1995 as the club batted fifth in the NL (.267) & in 1996 the Mets were second in batting average (.270).