“A Good Ballplayer must be Temperamental”

15 Feb

 

Idah McGlone Gibson was the most famous female journalist of the early 20th Century; in addition to publishing several books, she wrote for the syndicated Newspaper Enterprise Association, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Evening Herald, and The Toledo Blade.

idahmgibson

Idah McGlone Gibson

She also interviewed New York Giants Manager John McGraw twice, five years apart.

Their first meeting took place in New York shortly before the end of the Giants’ pennant-winning 1912 season.  McGlone told her readers:

“McGraw is surrounded by more ‘buffers’ to keep the public from him that Maude Adams (a notoriously press-shy actress), who is never interviewed, and that’s going some.

mcgrawgibson

Gibson and McGraw in 1912

“Neither his telephone number nor his home address is obtainable unless you reach one of his close friends, and at the Polo Grounds. he is never on view until you have passed all the police force and plain-clothes men.”

McGlone said former Giant turned New York attorney, John Montgomery Ward provided her with an introduction to McGraw.

“It was after the game that I saw the Giants’ manager, well-groomed, well-dressed, well-mannered. McGraw was evidently at peace with himself and the world…He is the most serious ballplayer I ever talked to.  He seldom smiles, and told me that he put one on to order when he had his picture taken with me.”

Gibson asked how McGraw thought the Giants would fare in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox:

“Of course, we are going into the game to win, not because of any glory attached to it, but because it is our business.  However, I feel that I shall be able to live through the winter if we lose the world’s championship.  I am not able to get up that high-water mark enthusiasm which exhilarates the fans to whom the game is a pleasure and not a business.”

She also asked McGraw about the biggest source of gossip surrounding his ballclub; the relationship between Rube Marquard, his 26-game winning pitcher and vaudeville star Shirley Kellogg—during August and September several newspapers published erroneous reports from Marquard’s mother that the couple had married:

“’Indeed, I don’t know whether he is married or not,’ he answered suavely, but his brown eyes narrowed and his lips came together firmly.  ‘You know I have nothing to do with the private lives of my men.’

“Marquard’s name and love affairs, however, did not bring a rosy glow to the manager’s face, and I imagine McGraw has helped make the course of true love run a little crooked, as ‘the Rube’ has lost the jump to his fast ball since his reported marriage.”

Rube Marquard

Rube Marquard

 

McGraw touted his other pitchers, telling Gibson that the greatest pitching performance “he had ever seen was in training camp last spring” when Jeff Tesreau and Al Demaree faced each other for 12 scoreless innings in an intersquad game in Texas.

Despite her fondness for McGraw, Gibson told her readers they “may trust a women’s intuition” and correctly predicted the Red Sox would win the World Series.

Gibson met McGraw five years later during a September series in Cincinnati, with the Giants on their way to another National League pennant. She said:

“I hope I have changed as little as he has in that time.

“His hair, the Irish hair that turns white early, has grown just a bit more optimistic—that is all.

“’Twenty-nine years is a long time to be in the game,’ he said as his eyes wandered over the field—‘longer than most of those boys can count their entire lives.’”

Gibson asked about temperamental players:

“In my nearly three decades of baseball I have learned one thing thoroughly—a good ballplayer must be temperamental, just as an artist, a musician, or a writer must have temperament.”

Gibson asked how he makes “a man’s temperament,” benefit the team:

“’By ignoring it,’ he answered.  ‘I must make every man think he has no temperament, even while making him use that most desirable quality in a ballplayer to its fullest capacity.’”

McGraw refused to say which player on the team was the most temperamental, but offered to tell who was the least.  Gibson said:

“’(Christy) Mathewson, I interrupted.’

“’Yes, Mathewson is always to be depended upon.  When he knows a thing is to be done he just does it.  Some men play best when a team is winning and some play best when spurred by defeat.  A baseball manager must not only be a good picker, but he must study each man individually and handle all differently.’

“’At the end of a season with a winning team you have to be more than ever on your guard.  Every man is a bundle of nerves, drawn taut.  At this time every little prejudice, every little idiosyncrasy, every little vein of superstition is laid bare and raw.  You get to know your men better then than at any other time during the season.’”

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

McGraw and Mathewson

Gibson asked if the best ballplayers came from a particular nationality.  McGraw said:

“’I cannot answer that.  I think perhaps the Irish are the quickest thinkers and the readiest to take a fighting chance, but I would not like a team made up entirely of Irish.  You must have temperaments like the German to ballast the Irish.  Truly I think a winning ball team must be a melting pot of all nationalities.  This year there are more Germans among the Giants than any other nationality and they are just as temperamental as any other but they don’t show it in just the same way.’”

Gibson did not make a prediction about the World Series as she had done five years before; McGraw’s temperamental Giants were beaten four games to two by the Chicago White Sox.

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