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John Joseph McGraw was born in Truxton, New York on April 7, 1873. In his teens McGraw worked for the railroad selling candy bars on passenger trains. By age 17, his baseball skills had earned him a job with the Olean club of the New York-Pennsylvania League. After one year there, he went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to play in the Illinois-Iowa League. After that, he went to Baltimore, Maryland with the American Association. Baltimore became part of the National League in 1892 and McGraw was an integral part of their team. He was a better hitter than he was a fielder and amassed a lifetime batting average of .336 in 958 games.

McGraw became a player-manager for the Baltimore Orioles in 1899 but was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals at the end of the season. He played one year with the Cardinals before returning to manage the Orioles when they switched to the American League. He only managed there one year until July 16, 1902. After a disagreement with American League president Ban Johnson, he quit and signed to manage with the New York Giants.

The Giants teams he managed resembled McGraw's personality. They were fighters and had a strong desire to win. When McGraw took over managing the Giants, they were in last place. The following year they finished in second place and by 1904 they won a National League pennant. McGraw has been credited for developing Hall of Fame players including Frankie Frisch, Carl Hubbell, Christy Mathewson and Mel Ott. McGraw knew the subject of baseball forwards and backwards and as a result his teams became very successful. He told just about every player on his team exactly what to do in almost every game.

In 1908, McGraw shocked the baseball world by pushing the Giants into paying $11,000 for a young rookie pitcher from Indianapolis, Indiana. The sportswriters balked and said the rookie would never make it and that McGraw wasted the Giants money. As it turned out McGraw was right on target. That pitcher was Rube Marquard and he went on to win 201 big-league games before being named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For nearly 30 years McGraw managed the Giants and saw them win 10 pennants and 3 World Series Championships. In that time there were only 3 years -1902, 1915, and 1926- that the Giants finished out of the first division. He retired as manager of the Giants in 1932 but stayed on as vice president until his death in 1934. Before his death, McGraw was one of the highest paid men in baseball with a salary in excess of $100,000 for his role as manager and vice president. McGraw died in New Rochelle, New York on February 25, 1934 and was buried at New Cathedral in Baltimore, Maryland. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.