The Marvelous Story of John McGraw

Bleacher Report Senior Writer INovember 15, 2008

John Joseph McGraw was born on Apr. 7, 1873 in Truxton, NY to a very hostile family. His dad was very abusive and four of John's siblings died of diphtheria epidemic. His dad didn't exactly encourage John towards baseball.

Once, McGraw hit a home run that broke a church window and his dad beat him mercilessly for it. It was in right-center field, and McGraw was a lefty. To ensure no more windows were broken, McGraw became good at hitting to the opposite field. At 13, McGraw ran away.

Despite being a famous manager and third basemen, McGraw came up as a pitcher for a semi-pro team near home in Olean, NY in 1890. Manager Al Kenney decided to use his brain and converted McGraw to third base.

After the season was over, McGraw was bounced around the minors until he stuck with the Baltimore Orioles in 1891. The Baltimore team was a squad full of cut-throat ballplayers. They played dirty and were hated on the field, but beloved by fans off of it.

To fit in, McGraw became tough, mean and dirty. At 19, he was the team's roughest and toughest. McGraw would play games on the field—and they weren't usually funny—well to the other team, at least. At third base, he would grab a player's belt, preventing him from scoring. Sometimes, he would tackle a runner.

If you want an opposing pitcher to throw lots of pitches, put McGraw on your team. He got a reputation for tiring pitchers with his masterful ability to foul pitches off over and over.

In one game in 1896, he fouled 24 consecutive pitches. But that wasn't all he could do with a bat. McGraw hit .334 with 462 RBI over a 18-year playing career, leading the Baltimore Orioles to consecutive pennants in 1894, 1895, and 1896. Before that, the Orioles were a speck of dust in the National League.

When the franchise collapsed in 1899, McGraw found himself in St. Louis. He hated the city and refused to report until the reserve clause was put into his contract. However, he hit .344 in 99 games. In 1901, McGraw became manager of the Orioles—a new team that was flat out awful.

They didn't have the guys they had in the 1890's (Hughie Jennings, Joe Kelley, Wee Willie Keeler, Dan Brouthers, Jack Doyle, Wilbert Robinson and most importantly Ned Hanlon). They went 68-65 in McGraw's lone season as manager.

The next year, McGraw became manager of the New York Giants. And not the football team. When he arrived, the Giants were a terrible team, in the cellar of the league. Two years later, they were champions and one of the most feared teams in baseball.

In the 1904 World Series, McGraw was so mad at Ban Johnson for creating the American League, he refused to show up to the second World Series in baseball history.

In 1905, they showed up. Literally and figuratively. Christy Mathewson threw three complete game shutouts, a feat still yet to be bested. McGraw was known as a "Little Napoleon" by players. He played scientific baseball, and it worked.

One of his genius methods was to sign lots of collegiate players. McGraw claimed the college boy has more work ethic and tries to fix his faults. The uneducated usually try to hide the faults. Probably true.

McGraw managed the Giants to ten National League pennants in thirty one years. McGraw won World Series titles with New York in 1905, 1921 and 1922. However, he lost the World Series in 1911, 1912, 1913, 1917, 1923 and 1924.

On Feb. 25, 1934, the baseball world lost a legend in McGraw as a result of cancer and uremia. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937.

In his career, McGraw had 13 home runs, 462 RBI, and hit .334. As a manager with Baltimore and New York, he was 2,763-1,948 (.586 win percentage) with 10 pennants and three World Series. Not bad for a kid who ran away at 13.