John McGraw

Manager: Baltimore Orioles, 1899; Baltimore Orioles (AL), 1901-1902; New York Giants, 1902-1932

John McGraw was the most controversial, notorious, hateful, inspiring manager in baseball history, and he is the winningest manager in National League history.

John Joseph McGraw (1873-1934) played in an era when “rowdyism” was rampant, and he was among the worst offenders as he battled with opponents, umpires, and fans for any edge he could grasp. He played mostly third base from 1891 to 1906, but a spike wound cut short his playing career. His infamous Baltimore Oriole club twice won the Temple Cup. He had his first taste of managing in 1899, when he steered the club along with teammate Wilbert Robinson.

John McGraw was a top third baseman for the Orioles.
John McGraw was a top third baseman for the Orioles.

McGraw and Robinson were sold to St. Louis in 1900, but they elected to leave in 1901 to join the nascent American League, taking over the new Orioles. McGraw did not get along with AL founder Ban Johnson and began to listen to the siren of the firmly established NL.

He persuaded John Brush to buy an interest in the Orioles, and then release McGraw and some of the team’s bright young stars. They went to New York, and Brush sold his Cincinnati club and bought the restocked Giants. McGraw was then 29 years old, and he managed the team for the next 30 years.

Fans anticipated fireworks when McGraw and young pitching sensation Christy Mathewson met, but the two became fast friends. The Giants won pennants in 1904 and 1905. There was no World Series in 1904, as Brush scoffed at the AL. In 1905, the Giants beat Philly for the first of three world titles for the McGraw-led Giants, though Mc­Graw was fated to lose six World Series in his career.

In 1908, “Merkle’s Boner” cost the Giants a pennant, though many historians thought that the accountability lay with McGraw. “Little Napoleon” put together three pennants from 1911 to 1913, and another in 1917. McGraw was a fine field general who knew all the tricks for manufacturing runs in that low-scoring era.

He was the “absolute czar” of the team, relying on discipline and fear. John once said “Nine mediocre players pulling together under one competent head will do better work than nine individuals of greater ability without unified control.” His record is dotted with problems with umpires, and his violent nature often got him into trouble off the field and on.

McGraw built a powerhouse in the early 1920s, winning a record four straight pennants from 1921 to ’24, with World Series victories in 1921 and 1922. With the advent of lively ball strategies, baseball changed and the ’24 pennant was to be his last. McGraw was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937.

Here are John McGraw's major league managing totals:


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