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Note: This is the page for Hall of Fame Manager and third baseman John J. McGraw. For the Federal League pitcher, click here.
John Joseph McGraw
(Mugsy or Little Napoleon)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 7", Weight 155 lb.
- Debut August 26, 1891
- Final Game June 18, 1907
- Born April 7, 1873 in Truxton, NY USA
- Died February 25, 1934 in New Rochelle, NY USA
He broke in with the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association (which was a major league at the time) in 1891. As an 18-year-old rookie, he hit .270, in a league where the league average was .255. During his career, he appeared in 782 games as a third baseman, 183 as a shortstop, and smaller numbers as an outfielder and second baseman. Players of the time were often small and wiry, and McGraw was no exception - he was only 5 ft. 7 in.
In his second year, 1892, he found himself with Baltimore of the National League (also known as the Orioles), where he was to spend the next eight years. The Orioles were to become one of the top teams in the league during the 1890s, finishing either first or second from 1894 to 1898. It was a lively ball era, so one has to take a bit of the air out of the stats, but McGraw hit at least .320 every year from 1893 to 1901. His peak was .391 in 1899.
He also drew a great number of walks. When he hit .391, he also had 124 walks to achieve an unbelievable OBP of .547. He led the league three times in OBP during his career.
The Orioles of the time boasted such well-known players as Wilbert Robinson, Joe Kelley, Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Willie Keeler, Jack Doyle, in 1899 a young Jimmy Sheckard, Tony Mullane, and Kid Gleason.
In 1899, McGraw became a player-manager, and after that he was to focus increasingly on managing. Except for 1900, when he was a player but not a manager with the St. Louis Cardinals after the Orioles were excluded from the National League, he was a player/manager for each year through his last as a player in 1906.
He joined the American League's newly-recreated Baltimore Orioles in 1901, the league's first year as a direct competitor to the National League. He hit .349 and the following year, he moved in mid-season to the New York Giants, taking a number of his best players with him, and spent a number of years there, playing occasionally but primarily serving as manager.
As a player, he achieved a lifetime average of .333 and a lifetime OBP of .466. The batting average puts him #25 of all time, while the OBP puts him #3 of all time. His career OPS+ was 135, however, his career was relatively short - although he appeared as a player in 16 seasons, he played 100 games or more in only 5 of them. He had less than 5,000 plate appearances - granted that there were fewer games played in a season in those years.
In terms of "similarity scores", no player is really very similar, but some of the players in the top ten are Hughie Jennings, Frank Chance, and Red Rolfe. However, as sometimes happens with similarity scores, the most similar players don't seem to be as good as McGraw was.
His candidacy for the Hall of Fame didn't have to rest alone on his playing days, however, because he went on to have a managerial career of 33 years, with a winning percentage of .586. He managed the Orioles the first 3 years, but then spent the rest of his career with the New York Giants.
While people these days tend to remember the Yankees of the 1920s better than the Giants, the Giants were a mighty force during most of McGraw's tenure as manager. They won the pennant 10 times and the World Series 3 times. During much of that time, he was fortunate to have Christy Mathewson on the team. He also managed "Iron Man" Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan, Bill Dahlen, Jim Thorpe, Mike Donlin, Larry Doyle, Fred Merkle (McGraw was the manager on the day of the famous "Merkle Bonehead Play" that involved so many famous players on both the Giants and the Cubs in 1908), Art Devlin, Art Fletcher, Rube Marquard, George J. Burns, Hal Chase, Ross Youngs, George Kelly, Dave Bancroft, Frankie Frisch, Hack Wilson, Heinie Groh, Casey Stengel, Travis Jackson, Bill Terry, Freddie Lindstrom, Rogers Hornsby, Edd Roush, Burleigh Grimes, Mel Ott, Lefty O'Doul, Carl Hubbell, and Carl Mays.
It is also known that he helped arrange for former players Amos Rusie and Dan Brouthers to serve as night watchmen at the Polo Grounds, and in the evening after games the three would sometimes sit and reminisce about old times.
According to Frank Deford in The old ball game : how John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants created modern baseball, New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, c2005, McGraw's teammates took up a collection and presented him with the complete works of Shakespeare on his retirement as manager.
At one point, he was head coach of St. Bonaventure University. For a number of years he ran at least one billiard parlor in New York City.
John McGraw holds the major league record for losses (28) by a manager in World Series play. He was nicknamed " Little Napoleon" for his managerial style and small stature.
"McGraw men were brought up to hustle. He kept you liking the game. If he couldn't, he'd get rid of you so quick you wouldn't have time to notify the post office of your change of address." - Casey Stengel
- 3-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1897, 1899 & 1900)
- 2-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1898 & 1899)
- 2-time NL Bases on Balls Leader (1898 & 1899)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 5 (1893-1895, 1898 & 1899)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons; 3 (1894, 1895 & 1899)
- NL Pennants: 10 (1904, 1905, 1911-1913, 1917 & 1921-1924)
- Managed three World Series Champions with the New York Giants (1905, 1921 & 1922)
- 100 Wins Seasons as Manager: 4 (1904, 1905, 1912 & 1913)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1937
|Baltimore Orioles Manager
|New York Giants Manager
Year-By-Year Managerial Record
- Richard Adler: Mack, McGraw and the 1913 Baseball Season, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2008.
- Charles C. Alexander: John McGraw, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1995 (Originally published in 1988).
- Clifford Blau: "John McGraw Comes to New York: the 1902 New York Giants", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Number 31, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2003, pp. 3-10.
- Max Blue: "McGraw's Streak", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 43, Number 1 (spring 2014), pp. 26-32.
- Frank DeFord: The Old Ball Game, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, NY, 2005
- Lou Hernández: Manager of Giants: The Tactics, Temper, and True Record of John McGraw, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2018. ISBN 978-1-4766-7070-6
- Maury Klein: Stealing Games: How John McGraw Transformed Baseball with the 1911 New York Giants, Bloomsbury Press, New York, NY, 2016. ISBN 978-1632860248