June 1, 1932: John McGraw’s Final MLB Game as New York Giants Manager

In the June 2 edition of TSN, correspondent Vila dutifully reported, “Manager John McGraw, who was stricken with illness while his Giants were idle in Pittsburgh recently, has not been allowed to take his place on the bench. He is suffering with sinus trouble, which is said to have affected his vision and given him much pain. His physician has advised him to remain at home until real hot weather sets in. McGraw was anxious to take command of his players when they stacked up against the Dodgers on May 21, but was advised to wait a little longer. There is no doubt the absence of McGraw has upset the machinery.” After 40 games, the Giants were sputtering in eighth-place—dead last in the NL—with a 17-23 record.

By the time most fans read Vila’s story, it was obsolete. The news of McGraw’s retirement on June 3 had already circulated. The stunning announcement thoroughly overshadowed Lou Gehrig’s spectacular feat of smacking four home runs in one game versus the Philadelphia Athletics that same afternoon. McGraw’s health trouble was considerably worse than what was reported. McGraw would be dead in 20 months from a combination of uremia and prostate cancer. His last appearance at a MLB ballpark occurred when he came out of retirement for one historic afternoon to manage the National Leaguers in the first ever MLB All-Star Game, at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1933. He looked old, beaten and bedraggled. He was only 60 but he looked at least a decade older.

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In the March 1, 1934 issue of TSN, McGraw’s passing was reported thusly by Vila: “The baseball world was plunged into sorrow on February 25 when John McGraw, manager of the Giants for 30 years, until mid-season 1932, died in the hospital at New Rochelle, NY. The game little fighter had apparently won his fight against uremia, a form of kidney poisoning, when complications developed and the end could not be stayed. Mrs. McGraw, President Charles A. Stoneham of the Giants, and several other close friends were present when he expired.” Vila lamented that he was the last surviving New York baseball scribe who had been present to see McGraw break into the NL as a player with the feisty and colorful old Baltimore Orioles back in 1892. Vila, something of a fixture in New York baseball circles, would himself be dead within two months at age 67, the victim of a massive stroke he suffered while covering a horse racing event on April 27.

McGraw was rightly mourned as one of baseball’s most influential figures. His achievements are impressive. From 1902 to 1932 McGraw piloted the New York Giants to 10 NL pennants, three World Series championships, and 21 first- or second-place finishes in the 29 full seasons he was at the team’s helm. Like Connie Mack—the only MLB manager with more career victories­—McGraw was the personification of his team. The New York Giants were John McGraw. More than 80 years after his death John McGraw remains truly a Giant among baseball men.

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