McGraw’s “Rubber”

2 Jan

In 1903 and ’04 the Boston Beaneaters finished sixth, and seventh, while the New York Giants followed a second place finish in 1903 by winning the pennant in ’04.

Jacob Charles “Jake” Morse of The Boston Herald said he it wasn’t just talent that made the Giants more successful:

“It is astonishing that so little attention is paid to the care of baseball players during the training season and the playing campaign, especially the former.  It is in the spring that arms need the most careful cultivation and a first-class expert is almost indispensable.

“A first-class ‘rubber’ ought to be taken by every club that goes South, and if this were done sore arms and muscles would be reduced to a minimum.

“Here in Boston neither club has what is called a trainer or a ‘rubber.’ The New York National League club has had the services of the well-known ‘rubber’ Gus Guerrero, for several seasons, and he has given satisfaction.”

Before coming to the Giants as the team “Rubber,” Guerrero had made a name for himself as a competitive walker and runner.  The San Francisco Call said of him:

“Back in the late (eighteen) seventies Guerrero was the one best bet when it came to a foot race, whether for one or for 500 miles, six-day match, or even if the proposition called for a jaunt from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast.  Anything went with Guerrero; he ran for 48 hours, making 300 miles flat in that time, and once in 1884 he trundled a wheelbarrow from San Francisco to New York City.”

Gus Guerrero

Gus Guerrero

Guerrero, often billed as “The Mexican,” and “The best athlete Mexico ever produced,” was actually born in Northern California.  He became an athletic trainer in New York in the 1890s and began working for the Giants in 1900.

John McGraw inherited Guerrero when he came to New York in 1902, and swore by his “Rubber.”

The Associated Press said, in 1904 when McGraw, trying to rehabilitate his injured knee, took Guerrero on the spring training trip south:

“Last year (McGraw) depended on local massage men to rub and bandage the bad knee, but they did not understand the job.  Guerrero, a professional, has been spending several hours per day solely on McGraw’s weak muscles and has succeeded in hardening them so that the joint is fairly protected and does not spring at a critical moment.”

The New York Press said of Guerrero:

“(He) wears a baseball shirt labeled ‘New York’ all the time.  McGraw says he believes Gus sleeps in it. As the men come in he looks them over, particularly the pitchers.  If a box man complains of a stiff arm the trainer attends to it as carefully as a physician looks after the throat of an operatic prima donna.  He makes the player strip, steams him, puts him on a slab, massages him, and then rubs in a liniment of his own concoction which he declares would take the stiffness out of a telephone pole.  It is equal parts of witch hazel and alcohol to a quart; with half a teaspoon of oil of wintergreen and a dash of something else that Guerrero says is his secret.”

While McGraw seemed impressed with Guerrero, it appears some of his players were not.

When the team was training in Birmingham, Alabama during the spring of 1904, The New York Globe’s Allen Sangree, who was traveling with the Giants, wrote about an exchange between Guerrero and Christy Mathewson:

“Mathewson, in particular, was feeling grouchy yesterday.  ‘How’s your arm?’ asked Gus Guerrero, the rubber, as he put the finishing touches on him…’Arm alright,’ said Matty, ‘but I don’t feel good.’

“’Well, what’s the matter?’ pursued the rubber.

“’Nothing, didn’t I tell you!’ yelled the big fellow, in exasperated tones.  ‘Just nothing, only I don’t feel good; and don’t bother me either.’”

Just after Jake Morse wrote about the advantage McGraw’s “Rubber” had given the Giants, it was announced that he would no longer be the team’s trainer.

The New York Herald said:

“Gus and the players could not get along well, so he resigned.”

McGraw, who remained “a strong believer in massage treatment for pitcher’s arms before and after the game,” and replaced Guerrero with Harry Tuthill—Tuthill had trained several fighters, including William “Young Corbett II” Rothwell, and “Mysterious” Billy Smith.   Tuthill was with New York until 1908 when he joined the Detroit Tigers.

Harry Tuthill, with Tigers pitcher Del Gainer

Harry Tuthill, with Tigers pitcher Del Gainer

Guerrero never worked for another major league club. He continued to participate in races, and eventually returned to California where he died in 1914.

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10 Responses to “McGraw’s “Rubber””

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