Manager Muggsy McGraw is Not a Strict Disciplinarian

Damon Runyon

Edmonton Journal/September 29, 1911

Scrappy Leader of the New York National League Team Lets the Players Do as They Please, But Bars Drinking and Gambling—Develops Many Youngsters.

Over in one corner of the hotel cafe Josh Devore, we will say, is calmly eating lobster salad, with a cup of strong black coffee on the side. 

The hour is 11:15 p.m. The eye of the diminutive outfielder casually notes the clocks as he consumes his weird repast. Perhaps he has George Wiltse, the sombre-visaged, left-handed pitcher of the big town club as his companion, also partaking of a strange nocturnal diet. 

At 11:20 they light their cigarettes; in five minutes more they push back their chairs, and nod at one another. 

“It’s that time,” says Wiltse, and they are on their way to bed. 

Let not the dyspeptic shudder at the thought of sleeping upon such a night-time supper. The two ball players—boy and veteran—will slumber as soundly as children until 9 o’clock the next morning, and at 10 they will be back in the cafe for their ham and eggs and wheat cakes, just as surely as the dining room doors open. 

And perhaps “Hooks” will pitch the next day and shut out the opposing club with two or three hits, while Devore will assist in the victory by a sensational batting and fielding streak. 

Thus are the theories of diet for athletes all shot to pieces.  

Perhaps, while they are dining a la midnight, John J. McGraw, manager of the Giants, passes. His quick eye may note the culinary display laid before his men; certainly he cannot fail to observe the cigarettes, but food and smoke will bring no comment from the chief. 

Is Interested in Bed Time

The fact that the pair will be headed for what Josh calls “the hay” at 11:30 is of more interest to McGraw. 

Over in a nearby drug store, Otis Crandall, the solidly built Indiana farmer boy whom the players call “Old Doc” because he is the pitching physician of the emergency case, is permitting ice cream sodas to seep into his system; Big Chief Meyers, the good-natured Indian catcher, is drinking some strange concoction of syrup and carbonated water; down in the poolroom Al Wilson, young Gene Paulette, Fred Merkle, Leon Ames, Christy Mathewson and Bert Maxwell, the new pitcher, are clicking the balls about, while Arthur Devlin, Louis Drucke and Grover Hanley are idling in front of the hotel. 

Beals Becker and Fred Snodgrass have gone to a theatre; the others are scattered over the town. But by 11 o’clock they come trooping into the hotel. They stand around talking and joshing a few moments, then hands slip to the watch pockets, and soon they are filing into the elevator. By midnight they are in bed and asleep. 

“I suppose,” says the layman, “that the rules of conduct for member of a club like the Giants, especially when it is making its final fight for the pennant, are very strict.”

He supposes wrong. 

There are rules of discipline, of course, and they are rigidly enforced, but they are rules which would be observed by the average citizen of average habits in his ordinary life, and they are little different now, when the club has settled down on the drive to the wire, than they were last spring when the season opened, with perhaps the single exception of the 11:30 retiring hour. 

Two Rules for Giants

McGraw makes a point of two rules in particular so far as the conduct of the players off the field is concerned. 

They must not drink intoxicating liquor. 

They must not gamble. 

It so happens that at this time McGraw has not a single man on his club “addicted to the use of liquor,” as the temperance orators say, but liquor has made his pennant race harder for the Giants to win than any other one thing, just the same. 

Had “Bugs” Raymond, the eccentric right-hander, continued in the narrow path, as he started last spring, the Giants believe they would have been ten games ahead of their nearest competitor, and the fight would be over. “Bugs” is now around Chicago, pitching semi-professional ball, and yet he might have had his fellows and himself in a position to play the world’s series with all its attendant glory and money, long before this. He might have been drawing as much salary as any other pitcher in the world—not excepting Mathewson. 

The days of detectives and keepers for Raymond are over; he has undoubtedly pitched his last game for the Giants, and probably for any big league club. As a general thing “Bugs” was persona non grata with most of the players anyway. The liquor rule is now almost unnecessary, but it goes, just the same, probably by way of reminder, and a player found taking a drink would draw a stiff fine. 

Gambling is ranked next to liquor in the McGraw category of sins. 

During the spring training season in the early part of the playing year, the men had their poker games and other forms of card playing. First McGraw put the ban on poker, and then he abolished all games of chance, no matter what form they might take. 

Gambling Has To Go

Now it is not to be assumed that any great moral purpose was behind the McGraw orders. They were issued to preserve the morale and not the morals of the club. McGraw delivers no lecture on the subject. His ground is that gambling is just naturally bad for the players, the same as liquor is bad for them. It is liable to create dissensions and bring on quarrels; it is conducive to late hours, and the men cannot afford to lose the money they so hardly earn. So gambling had to go.

 It is understood that McGraw even frowns on betting. He doesn’t want his men thinking about matters of that kind when they can just as well think about the pennant. 

A baseball club is like a big family, and naturally there are apt to be little internecine squabbles. Next to gambling and drinking, the quickest way to incur the McGraw displeasure would be by fighting. That is to say, by the men fighting among themselves. If players Smith and Jones have a quarrel, they had better keep it secret. McGraw will not stand for dissensions. An open fight between the two men would doubtless bring on this sort of misconduct. It goes without saying that the manager expects his men to conduct themselves as gentlemen off the field, and they would be expected  to do that whether they were ball players or not. Men of the stamp of Mathewson, Merkle, Snodgrass, Ames, Doyle and the rest are not likely to need rules 

If a crowd of players are together talking, in a Pullman, for instance, and a woman enters, the man nearest the door who sees her first warns against conversational accident by a cry or “heads up!” 

Don’t Need Diet

There are no rules which obtrude themselves into the dining room, as stated. McGraw takes it for granted that the men know what to eat and when to eat it, and the fact that there has not been a case of illness this season, and that the players are all in great health right now, indicates that a prescribed diet is wholly unnecessary. 

They eat what they please, and when they please, and incidentally they go right through the bill of fare when they sit down to the table. Most of the men eat but twice a day—a light breakfast around 10 o’clock, and a heavy dinner after the game. And the testimony of the hotel chef who has had experience with them is that they are “right smart feeders.” Some of them eat again during the course of the evening and most of them can go right to sleep after coffee. 

Nearly all of them smoke cigarettes, and some cigars. Mathewson occasionally affects a pipe. 

Of course, if a man was overdoing his eating or smoking, and was affecting his health, or his work, McGraw might take a hand in the matter, but he assumes they are old enough to know how to take care of themselves. 

Anyone who thinks that the older men like Mathewson or Wiltse or Devlin would be given more leeway than the youngsters on the rules is very much mistaken. McGraw looks to them, in fact, to set the example for the younger fellows. If Matty, for instance, should violate a rule of discipline, the manager would very likely give him a “call” quicker than he would a newcomer, for the reason that he figures that the “old heads” should, of all others, know better. 

However, it is rarely that a reprimand is necessary for violation of rules of conduct off the field. 

Dislike a Tale-Bearer

While McGraw does not mingle to any great extent with the players off the field, he has a way of knowing just what is going on. He particularly dislikes a tale bearer, and no player would think o! carrying stories to him of infractions of the rules. The manager would express his opinion of the storyteller first before taking cognizance of the reported offense. 

That he is almost as patient with human frailties off the field as with shortcomings on the diamond is indicated by efforts to reform Raymond. He believed that “Bugs” was a great pitcher when he was right, and he gave him every chance. There was a selfish interest, of course, but the advantage would have been all Raymond’s in the end, rather than McGraw’s. 

A ball player does not have to keep himself in the same course of training that other athletes do. A prize fighter, for instance, or a foot racer, is working up to a certain event, while the ball player has to keep himself in the same condition for months. The prospect of big money and much glory at the end of the season is sufficient incentive to make them careful of their living. 

The day of the hard-drinking roistering player has departed. A big league manager nowadays does not care to be bothered with them. Occasionally a character of that sort bobs up who has such phenomenal ability in his particular line that the manager must overlook his private life for the time being, but the way the great players of the past have come and gone along the primrose path seems to have served as a warning to the boys now breaking into the game.


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