He was best known for his managerial skills, but John McGraw’s playing career straddled the centuries. Primarily a third baseman, the 5’7, 155-pound Irishman debuted in 1891 and retired in 1906, with a career batting average of .334 and 436 stolen bases.
There are plenty of photos of McGraw during his long tenure as manager of the New York Giants but with his retirement as a player taking place long before action photos became part of the baseball landscape, it’s hard to find one that shows him with a bat in his hands or glove on his hand. The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day offers one such image.
Taken in 1918 and being offered for the first time, the 6 3/4″ x 10″ photo shows McGraw standing at home plate and taking a cut, presumably hitting some fungoes to his Giants’ infielders with a wooden fence behind him.
Clad in a baseball sweater that was commonly worn before the advent of warmup jackets, McGraw is swinging while holding an unidentified object held between his teeth. “John J McGraw, NY Nat’l” is written in pencil on the reverse.
A newspaper archive file stamp on the back has a date of June 7, 1918, the early stages of a remarkable run by the Giants, who had first enjoyed success under McGraw in the early part of the century, thanks in large part to Christy Mathewson. From 1917-1925, the Giants finished first or second every year, capturing two World Series titles. The 1918 season would be cut short because of American involvement in World War I.
McGraw managed his last game 89 years ago, but he still holds the record for most wins in the National League at 2,669.
The auction wraps up this Saturday, with more than 1,200 images being offered at RMYAuctions.com.