Apr 6, 2016

New York Giants Hall Of Fame Manager: John McGraw (1902-1932)

John Joseph McGraw was born on April 7, 1873 in Truxton, New York. He was son to an Irish immigrant who arrived in America in time for the Civil War. His father eventually married John McGraws mother after settling upstate in Truxton, New York which is located in Cortland, County New York State. The McGraws had seven more children after John was born, but the harsh winters & poverty of trying to raise such a large family was over bearing.


A fever swept the McGraw household in 1884 killing Johns mother & three of his siblings. The family moved out of the house into a hotel but McGraw’s relationship with his father fell apart. His father had no tolerance for his sons love of baseball & became abusive toward him. Young John McGraw left home at 12 years old to live with a neighbor, Mary Goddard. He took on a number of jobs & played baseball for his local high school team.

The short McGraw at five foot seven, made up for his size by playing hard. He played for the town team and eventually it’s owner would buy a team in the newly former New York Penn. League in Olean, New York. McGraw begged at the chance to play on this team & signed his first contract.

McGraw began a playing career with the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association in 1891, moving to the National League the following season. McGraw was one of the games best players in the late nineteenth century. Although some of his stats may seem inflated due to it being a livley ball era, McGraw hit over .300 for nine straight seasons including a .391 average in 1899. He would lead the league in on base % twice, walks & runs scored twice.

The speedy pesky McGraw also stole over 40 bases five times, including 78 steals in 1894 & two other seasons with sixty plus stolen bases. He had his best season in 1899 batting .391 leading the league with a .547 on base %, 140 runs scored & 124 walks. In his 16 year career McGraw posted a .466 on base% (third all time) batting .334 (25th all time) with 1309 hits, 436 stolen bases (54th all time) 121 doubles, 70 triples, 1024 runs scored 13 HRs & 462 RBIs in 1099 games. On the field he played mostly shortstop & third base posting a .899 fielding % turning 182 double plays.

His Orioles teams were one of baseball’s best in those days as well. From 1894 through 1898 they finished either first or second. The term “Baltimore Chop” began with these Orioles teams, as McGraw & teammates like Wee Willie Keeler would chop the ball in front of the plate & with their speed beat out a hit before the ball could be fielded. The Baltimore groundskeeper would mix clay in the dirt & pack the area around home plate very tight for more effect.

In 1897 at the height of his playing fame, he married his first wife Minnie Doyle, daughter of a big time Baltimore Politician. Sadly she passed away at age 23 after complications from an appendectomy. In 1899 he became a player/ manager with the Orioles, & then went to play in St. Louis for one season. He returned to Baltimore in 1901-1902 before moving on to join the New York Giants in 1902, taking many of his players with him. That year he married Blanche Sindall whom would outlive McGraw by almost thirty years.

She would grow to love the game & her New York Giants as well. In 1951 she threw out the first pitch of the World Series after Bobby Thompson had hit the famous “shot heard round the world” to win the pennant. In 1963 she was in attendance as the wrecking ball destroyed th Polo Grounds in its demolition.

John McGraw took over as the New York Giants player/ manager in 1902 & would remain a fixture there for the next 31 years. He became known as Little Napolean or Mugsey although none of his players dare call him that to his face.

He was a tough manager who yelled at his players demanding nothing but the best. If they didn’t perform to his standards they were gone in no time.

He would win 106 games and the National League title in 1904 but refused to acknowledge the newly formed American League so there was no World Series. The next season his Giants finished first again & this time played Connie Mack & the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series, beating them in five games. Three more second places would follow over the next five years including finishing just one game back of the Chicago Cubs in 1908. This was the famous season where rookie Fred Merkle’s base running blunder occurred.

In a game against the Cubs, Merkle was on first base when Al Bridwelll singled home the game winning run, but Merkle did not run all the way to second base. The Cubs alert to this called for the ball & forced Merkle on second base. The question whether it was the actual game ball or not will never be answered. In any event the season ended in a tie & the Cubs beat the Giants in a one game playoff at the end of season.

Thousands of fans tried to get into the Polo Grounds that day but there wasn’t enough room. One man even fell to his death as hundreds tried to climb fences & the 8th Avenue el outside the ball park. The Cubs escaped the ball park fearing for their lives, with the help of NY police.
McGraw with Connie Mack

In 1911 McGraw began a stretch of three straight first place finishes, but lost the World Series each time, twice to the Philadelphia A’s & once to the Boston Red Sox. In 1917 the Giants lost another World Series to the Chicago White Sox who would become scandled by bribes & forever be known as the Black Sox two seasons later.

In 1921 McGraw began a four year dominance of the Nation League finishing first each time, & winning two World Series titles. 1921 marked the first New York Subway Series, the Giants defeated the A.L. New York club two straight seasons. In those days the two teams were sharing the Polo Grounds after Hill top Park was abandoned. McGraw & the Giants told the A.L. New York club that they were over staying their welcome & had them build their own stadium across the river in the Bronx.

McGraw would manage until 1932 being replaced by Hall of Famer Bill Terry. The 1924 World Series would be McGraw’s last, and he would finish in second place three more times before walking away from the game. McGraw would manage in 4769 career games winning 2763 while losing 1790, good enough for a .586%.

He won ten National League Pennants & three Word Series titles. McGraw had four 100 plus win seasons, and would finish in second place eleven other times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937.

John McGraw was considered to be one of the greatest judges of talent the game ever saw. He took chances on players that other teams gave up on & took risks on long shot signings as well. Often enough this worked in his favor and he got something extra out of a player, sometimes not. One example was when he signed the great Jim Thorpe. Thorpe an all around athlete couldn’t hit a curve ball.

McGraw loved to bait umpires & certainly had his battles with them on the field. McGraw was ejected 131 times in his career, second to only Bobby Cox who beat out McGraw in 2007.

McGraw managed some 25 Hall of Famers in his career, most notably the greatest pitcher of them all & McGraws personal favorite Christy Mathewson. The two developed a close friendship though the years on & off the field. He also arranged for former players Amos Rusie and Dan Brouthers to work as night watchman in Polo Grounds. Sometimes the three would sit around all night and talk about their old days in baseball.

Baseball Hall of Fame john McGraw Display
Two years after retiring from baseball he died of uremic poisoning, which was a common kidney problem in those days. McGraw passed away at age 60 in New Rochelle, New York in 1934.

In addition to being inducted in the Hall of Fame, his uniform name is honored in San Francisco at the Giants ballpark.

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