For decades prior to the rise of Babe Ruth, the most recognized name in baseball was John McGraw. An outstanding player in the 1890s, McGraw—nicknamed “Mugsy”—was molded in the rough and tumble pre–20th century game where sportsmanship and fair play took a back seat to competition. Later, he became the successful manager of the New York Giants, dominating the National League in New York City for more than 30 years.
McGraw led the Giants with authoritarian swagger—earning another moniker, “Little Napoleon”—from 1902 through 1932, before illness forced his retirement. In his 31 seasons in New York, his teams won three world championships and 10 pennants and rarely finished out of the first division. He was a trailblazer in the use of bullpen and position player substitutions, and pushed hit-and-run strategies over the then prevalent dictums of sacrifice bunting. An unconventional leader, McGraw missed considerable bench time during his reign on account of injury, illness and fiery temperament.