"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
I'm currently readingThe Old Ball Game, Frank Deford's book on John McGraw, Christy Mathewson and the New York Giants of the early 1900s.
''Never,'' Deford writes, ''were two men in sport so close to one another and yet so far apart in ilk and personality.'' His proclamation is tough to dispute. Muggsy McGraw, a squat, pugnacious Irishman, had made his name years before becoming manager of the New York Giants by starring for the roughhouse Baltimore Orioles, a virtual street gang that spiked shins with abandon and brazenly cheated their way to pennants. (They were known to hide extra balls in the outfield grass and to impede opposing runners by holding onto their belt loops.) McGraw was their calculating leader, a man who one umpire claimed ''eats gunpowder every morning and washes it down with warm blood.''
He took over the floundering Giants in 1902, inheriting the young Mathewson, a dashing, urbane Bucknell man who, Deford coos, was ''our beau ideal,'' ''that fresh-faced, well-groomed, broad-shouldered, quintessentially turn-of-the-century American male.''
Mathewson and McGraw led the Giants to five pennants between 1904 and 1913, giving baseball the legitimacy of a big-market juggernaut and a beguiling, all-American star. Matty and Muggsy spent most of the century's first two decades as two of the most famous men in the United States.
They became best pals...McGraw admired Mathewson's mound smarts and valor, and came to regard him as, Deford writes, ''his boy, his kid brother -- or maybe just his alter ego, the man Muggsy would have been if he had only been blessed, as a child, with books and looks and love.''
* * *
"Show me a baseball fan's favorite team, and I'll show you the sixth grade," writes NY Times reviewer Alan Schwarz. He's got a point.
Sixth grade for me was Luis Aparicio falling down rounding third, the Red Sox losing the East Division by a half-game – another near miss in a litany of Sox near-misses – and catcher Carlton Fisk, pride of New England and unanimous American League Rookie of the Year, in tears afterward. Sixth grade also was Mrs. Accomando, God rest her soul, a baseball fan through and through, rolling the big TV into our classroom so we could watch the playoffs, and thereby, see Bert Campaneris famously chuck his bat at Tigers pitcher Lerrin Lagrow.
It was after a fight between the Orioles' McGraw and the Beaneaters' Tommy Tucker in the third inning of a game in May 1894 that a fire broke out in the right field stands of Boston's old South End Grounds, notes Jeff Kallman.
The spreading blaze destroyed the ballpark and much of the surrounding neighborhood in what became known as the Great Roxbury Fire.
Baseball architecture in Boston has never since matched that of the old South End Grounds, the city's first baseball temple.