Central New York Baseball History – Part I

Central New York Baseball History

Welcome to the first of what we hope will be many columns on the history of baseball in the Central New York State region. This first column will have a biography of probably one of the most famous and controversial figures in baseball, John “Mugsy” McGraw a native of Truxton New York. It will also contain a biography of a minor league team that played in the village of Ilion New York at the turn of the 20 century from 1901 to 1904. Usually the column will contain either a biography of a player or a town, but since this is the first column I wanted to give you a taste of what each article may contain.

Part One John J. McGraw Bio

John J. “Mugsy” or “Little Napoleon” McGraw was born in the Cortland County Village of Truxton New York, which is located near the border where Cortland County meets Onondaga County, on April 7, 1873.

He would begin his career in baseball in 1890 with the Olean team in the New York-Penn League. He would then play with the Baltimore Orioles from 1891 to 1899 when that franchise was a member of the American Association (1891) and the National League (1892 to 1899). Then in 1900 he was a member of the St Louis Cardinals and he then went back to Baltimore for 1901 and part of 1902. After the Orioles in 1902 he remained with the New York Giants from 1902 to 1907 when he played his last game on June 18th.

As a member of the Orioles, he was part of a team that was both one of the best as well as one of the most despised and hated teams of that or any era. This team would stop at nothing to win whether it was bench jockeying, tripping or physically impeding a runner on the bases or cutting out a base when running because of their being only one umpire on the field at the time. He spent the bulk of his playing career as a third baseman but also spent time as a shortstop and outfielder.

Members of that early Orioles team besides McGraw included such Hall of Famers as Wilbert Robinson, Hughie Jennings, “Wee Willie” Keeler, Joe Kelly and Dan Brouthers.

Many forget or do not remember that McGraw was a pretty good ballplayer in his day who twice led the league in runs scored (1898-143,1899-140) and walks (1898-112, 1899-124). Also, his .334 batting average is the 25th best of all-time ahead of such notables as Eddie Collins, Stan Musial and Honus Wagner.

McGraw then went on to become one of the best managers in major league baseball history. His entire managerial career was spent with the New York Giants where he would go on to win 10 National League pennants and three World Series titles (1905, 1921 and 1922).

He was a leading proponent of what was called “small ball” or “inside baseball” where teams would work to get a run instead of waiting for a slugger to hit a home run or an extra base hit (ala Babe Ruth). During his career as a manager which lasted a total of 33 years, he would win 2,763 games placing him second on the all-time list behind the great Connie Mack who had 3,731 wins. Those 2,763 wins would place him just ahead of Tony LaRussa who is in 3rd place on the all-time list with 2,728 wins.

McGraw was just as hard-nosed and stubborn as a manager as he was when he was a player. In 1904 when the Giants won the National League pennant, they refused to play the American League champion Boston Americans who narrowly beat the New York Highlanders for the pennant. McGraw and the Giants refused to play the Boston franchise because they (Boston) were an inferior league. This, even though Boston won the first ever World Series in 1903 when they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates.

McGraw also had a soft side as well. In 1908 as the Giants were battling the Chicago Cubs for the National League pennant, Fred Merkle committed a base running blunder that will forever live in baseball lore. There was a runner on first when Merkle hit a single that advanced the runner to third and placed Merkle on first with two outs. The next batter hit a single and as the apparent winning run scored from third, Merkle failed to touch second base. The Cubs Johnny Evers noticed this and after calling for the ball and tagging second base the umpire declared Merkle out which negated the winning run from scoring. At the time, it was thought to be insignificant but at the end of the season the Cubs and the Giants were in a tie necessitating a one game playoff to determine the National League champion. Of course, the Cubs would go on to win the playoff and ultimately the World Series which was that last World Series Chicago would win until 2016.

McGraw was one of the only supporters of Merkle who would take his fair share of abuse over this incident. McGraw stood behind his player never blaming him for this incident which meant a lot to Merkle who would go on to a 16-year major league career.

McGraw would go on to manage Hall of Fame players such as Roger Bresnahan, Christy Mathewson, “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity, “Wee Willie” Keeler, Richard “Rube” Marquard, George “High Pockets” Kelly, Dave Bancroft, Frankie Frisch, Bill Terry, Travis Jackson, Hack Wilson, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Rogers Hornsby and Edd Roush some of the very elite people to grace a baseball diamond.

McGraw certainly was one of the great players and later, one of the games great managers, numbers do not lie. He retired as a manager midway through the 1932 season. He was coaxed back to manage the National League squad in the first ever All-Star game at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1933 against the legendary Connie Mack. It was his last appearance on a baseball diamond as he passed away February 25, 1934 in New Rochelle New York at the age of 60. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York in 1937.

Part 2- Ilion New York’s baseball history

The village of Ilion New York, located in the Herkimer County region of New York had a four-year period where there was a minor league baseball team in this New York State hamlet. The name Ilion is also a name for the ancient city of Troy and now part of the village is also located in the town of Frankfort and part of the Erie Canal is located North of the village.

From 1901 until 1904 Ilion was a member of the New York State League, and went by the name Typewriters. The New York State League consisted of the Albany Senators, Binghamton Bigoes, Cortland/Waverly, Rome Romans, Schenectady Electricians, Troy Washermwomen/Tigers and the Utica Pent Ups.

The 1901 Ilion Typewriters finished 8th in the New York State League with a record of 23-82 for manager Tim Shinnick. They were 44 games behind the Albany team that finished in first place. In 1902, Howard Earl was the manager and guided the team to a 3rd place finish with a record of 59 wins 47 losses, that placed them 9.5 games behind the Albay team. 1903 would see Ilion finish 7th in the New York State League with a 52 wins 73 loss record, placing them 24.5 games behind the Schenectady Electricians for manager Howard Earl. Managers  Jack Sharrott and Larry Sutton brought the Ilion team home in 3rd place, 14 games behind the Syracuse Stars, as Ilion finished with a record of 75 wins 56 losses in the team’s last year in the New York State League.

During the team’s years in the New York State League they had a number of players later go on to play in the major leagues. In 1901 Elmer Horton, Tim Shinnick and Grant Thatcher graced the Ilion diamond and then later went on to play in the major leagues.

In 1902 Howard Earl, Harry Hinchman Doc Scanlan, Nap Shea, Johnny Seigle and Grant Thatcher would play for the Typewriters and later play in the majors. For the 1903 season Red Ames, Howard Earl, Bill Hinchman, Doc Scanlan and Johnny Seigle later went on to play in the majors after wearing the Ilion uniform.

Charles Fredrick “Boots” Day was born in Ilion New York on August 31, 1947. He went to Central High School in Ilion and later onto Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica New York. His career in the minors began in 1965 with the Florida Instructional League Cardinals. He would later play with the Rock Hill Cardinals in South Carolina, the St Petersburg Cardinals in the Florida State League, the Arkansas Travellers of the Texas League, before making his major league debut with the St Louis Cardinals on June 15, 1969. Day would go on to play with the Cardinals, Cubs and Expos appearing in 471 games as a centerfielder and pinch hitter. He would get a total of 295 hits that included 28 doubles, 6 triples, 8 home runs, 98 runs batted in and a .256 batting average.

He would finish out his career in 1980 after playing in the minor leagues for the Memphis Blues (International League), Evansville Triplets of the American Association and the Lakeland Florida Tigers of the Florida State League.