In 1904 the Giants became NL Champions, finishing with a terrific record of 106-47. McGraw and new Giants’ owner John T. Brush so detested Ban Johnson and his league that they refused to play the Boston Americans in what would have been the second World Series of the modern era. The backlash against McGraw, Brush and the Giants for this snub was so stinging that after winning the NL pennant again in 1905, they agreed to play the AL-champion Philadelphia Athletics. New York comfortably triumphed in five games. McGraw led the Giants to NL pennants again in 1911, 1912, 1913, and 1917, but lost the World Series in each of those seasons.
“His regular-season success was due to his knack for evaluating and acquiring players who fit into his system, which stressed good pitching, sound defense, and aggressive base running,” biographer Don Jensen wrote. “McGraw bought, sold, and traded players more than his counterparts, grooming prospects for years before letting them play regularly. He also was an innovator, using pinch runners, pinch hitters and relief pitchers more than other managers.”
Jensen continued, “Many commentators believed that McGraw’s lack of World Series success was due to his strong preference for players who fit his system. The Giants were generally considered less talented than other top teams—they were a second-class team with a first-class manager. Until left-fielder Ross Youngs entered the league in 1917, catcher Roger Bresnahan was McGraw’s only Deadball Era position player who eventually made the Hall of Fame.”
McGraw’s last taste of glory was in the early 1920s. His Giants won every NL flag from 1921 through 1924—including two World Series triumphs. McGraw especially delighted when his pitchers shut down Babe Ruth in both the 1921 and 1922 WS since Ruth’s home-run swatting was the polar opposite to McGraw’s cherished inside game.
As the 1932 season began, neither McGraw nor the Giants looked especially well. Plagued by an inordinate amount of rainouts and generally shoddy performances when they could play, McGraw’s team was uncharacteristically languishing near the NL basement as June approached. Late in May, McGraw was absent from club when they travelled to Pittsburgh—something that seldom had happened in his three decades of service with the team. (The entire series versus the Pirates was rained out.) In the May 26 edition of The Sporting News, Joe Vila reported that McGraw was suffering from ptomaine poison and sinus trouble. But, as Vila noted, “McGraw did not lack the energy to file a protest against the alleged unfairness of umpire Bill Klem in Cincinnati for permitting a game with the Reds to go on in a drenching rain. There has been bad blood between McGraw and Klem for several years. Klem is a splendid umpire, fearless and honest. It is hard to believe that he pursues a personal grievance against the Giants.” It was somewhat fitting that one of McGraw’s final acts as team manager was to complain about one of the men in blue. In his career McGraw was ejected 118 times—the equivalent of more than three-quarters of a 154-game MLB season.
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