“Take a Chance, any time, and Fight all the Time”

19 Dec

John W. McConaughy was just 19 when he became the sports editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1903.  Over the next 30 years he worked as the Washington Correspondent for The New York Evening Journal, was the production manager for William Randolph Hearst’s film company, Cosmopolitan Productions, and was a member of the Creel Committee, created by President Woodrow Wilson to influence public opinion at home and abroad during World War I.  He also published several books on crime, politics and sports, including: “From Cain to Capone,” “Who rules America?: A Century of Invisible Government,” and “Big Jim Jeffries: His Twelve Greatest Battles.”

But, he continued to write about baseball long after he left St. Louis, including a profile of New York Giants Manager John McGraw on the eve of the 1913 World Series for The Evening Journal:

“The most distinctive and aggressive personality in baseball—this is John J. McGraw, the wonderful leader of the Giants.  He has been at one and the same time the most abused and most admired man in the national game.

John McGraw

John McGraw

“He has been called a rowdy and a Napoleon in equal parts.  He has been mixed up in more rows than any big league manager; but he has also been mixed up in more pennants… (Connie)Mack is his only rival for the title of greatest manager in the game and no two men in the world were ever more widely apart in character and methods than these two.  The old fox of Philadelphia has been dealt with elsewhere.  His system is carefully constructive work, leaving nothing to chance.

“McGraw’s motto is:

“’Take a chance, any time, and fight all the time.’

“He believes especially in fighting, but he is of the mind of Polonius in not advocating fighting as an end.  It is always a means with McGraw.  There is method in his mixing.  He has been represented as running amuck through baseball for the love of a rough-house.  Nothing is further from the truth.  When McGraw has a row on the ball field he figures that he is going to win something material at some time as a result.

“For instance, you never hear of any of the Giants being suspended or fined for battling with the umpires these days.  Why?  Because McGraw discovered that the magnates meant business in their manifestos against bully-ragging the arbiters and the chief of the Giants decided that a star on the field was worth six on the bench, recovering from the effects of ea sing their mind to an umpire.

“’I’ll do all the kicking from now on,’ he told his warriors.  ‘If any man is benched by an umpire I’ll fine him myself.  Let ‘em put me out of the game.  I’m not out there playing.’”

McConaughy said the two things McGraw looked for when evaluating players was “speed and brains,” but only the first one was non-negotiable:

“’It is possible to get good baseball out of a bonehead,’ he said once, ‘if you never expect him to think. Whenever there is any thinking to be done do it for him, and land on him with both feet if he tries to do any himself.

“By following this system he has actually made popular heroes out of notoriously slow-witted athletes.  He is out there on the coaching line thinking for them.”

McGraw, he said, was the “quickest and most daring thinker” in the game:

“It is characteristic of his aggressive mind that he is the only baseball leader who has no use for the sacrifice hit.  There is no doubt that he has lost many ball games by not using it, but there is also no doubt that he has won many a game by discarding it.  He follows offensive tactics of the dashing kind.  He is all for the hit-and-run and the double steal.  He believes in hitters and always has at least one a better than average hitting club, and his argument is that there is no sense in getting .300 hitters and ordering them to chuck away a one-in-three chance for a clean hit to advance a man a base at the cost of an out.”

McConaughy said McGraw was the ultimate player’s manager:

“He is the boss-he gives the orders and takes the blame.  He never breaks into print with anything like criticism of any man on his team no matter how much to blame any man may be for any disaster.

“He demands strict obedience and whole-hearted loyalty from his men, and he stands by them against all comers all the time and under all circumstances.  It doesn’t make any difference if every fan and sporting writer on the circuit has turned down his thumbs on a ballplayer.  This is usually a good reason, in McGraw’s system for moving him up a few places in the batting order and making him a regular player in a prominent position.

“There is scarcely a manager in the country who would have clung to (Fred) Merkle under the terrific panning that unfortunate man was let in for by his historic play at second base.  McGraw’s answer to the storm of abuse was to make him regular first baseman of the club, a place he has filled with credit.”

While McGraw did always defend Merkle for “his historic play, “he did not make him the “regular first baseman,” during “the storm of abuse” immediately following “Merkle’s Boner” in September of 1908, but  rather after the release of Fred Tenney following the 1909 season.

McConaughy summed up McGraw:

“His men are always looking for a chance to swear by him, and the fans around the circuit are equally keen for a chance to swear at him.”

Connie Mack, who McConaughy said was McGraw’s “only rival” for the title of baseball’s best manager, guided his Philadelphia Athletics to a four games to one victory over McGraw’s Giants in the 1913 world Series.

McGraw and Mack two years earlier at the 1911 World Series.

McGraw and Mack two years earlier at the 1911 World Series.

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4 Responses to ““Take a Chance, any time, and Fight all the Time””

  1. Zippy Zappy December 19, 2014 at 8:26 am #

    “Take a chance, any time, and fight all the time.”

    I can’t help but have Milton Bradley suddenly pop up in my mind when I read that. Although I’m guessing that Board Game probably did see fighting as a means to an end.

    • Thom Karmik December 19, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      Yes, I agree. Unfortunately with Milton, it seems just the “fight all the time” part stuck. I certainly think “what if?” had he been able to channel it. I met him twice, early on when he played with Cleveland–he seemed to be an intelligent, thoughtful guy–which makes it doubly sad that he couldn’t seem to beat his inner demons.

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