Before the dominance of Ruth, the player that best gave Connor's mark a run was Philadelphia Phillies OF Gavvy Cravath. Though he had made his MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox in 1908 and played for the Chicago White Sox and Washington Senators in 1909, Cravath became known for being a big time power hitter in the minor leagues. In what became parts of ten minor league seasons, Cravath hit an estimated 119 career home runs. However, it wasn't until the 1912 season (at age 31) where Cravath got a chance to play in the major leagues every day.
Gavvy burst onto the scene, hitting .284, 11, 70 in 130 games in 1912. His 11 HR were third in the NL (Chicago's Heinie Zimmerman led the circuit with 14). Cravath's next three seasons saw him lead the NL in HRs with 19, 19 and 24, respectively. Cravath's 24 HRs in 1915 were the most hit in a season since Ned Williamson hit 27 for the Chicago NL franchise in 1884. And Gavvy's power had been proven earlier as opposed to Williamson, who never had another season which approached his then record amount of home runs in a season. The 1915 Philadelphia Phillies won their first NL Pennant before losing to the Boston Red Sox in five games. Ironically, pitching in the same World Series for the first time was a LHP by the name of Babe Ruth, one who had just 4 big league home runs at the time.
Cravath would lead the NL in home runs three more times from 1917-1919. In fact, he still managed to lead the NL in home runs in 1919 despite only playing in 83 games. His last two MLB seasons were in 1919 and 1920, where he was the player/ manager for the Phillies. After leading the team to back to back last place finishes, he was let go after the 1920 season. He spent his last two professional seasons playing in the Pacific Coast League in 1921 and the American Association in 1922. After that, he joined the Phillies coaching staff in 1923. Gavvy's 119 home runs remained one of the top National League career totals until the roaring 1920s hit. With the home run totals seen from that decade on, it is hard to appreciate exactly what Gavvy Cravath was able to do for that seven year stretch. Leading the NL in HRs six times in seven seasons is something to be proud of. Something to be respected. Something to be revered for. The fact that he started it all at the age of 31 makes me think how many more HRs he could have hit if he was playing more pronouncely in the major leagues prior to 1912.