John McGraw: A Giant in Vaudeville

Thanks to reader Michael KInter, who let it be known that baseball legend John McGraw (1873-1934) deserves a place in the vaudeville annals. Kinter is currently working on a musical about McGraw; stay tuned for news about that as it progresses!

Nicknamed “Mugsy” and “The Little Napoleon”,John McGraw was originally a player, usually a third baseman, for the Orioles, the Cardinals and the Giants, gradually making the transition to manager. He is best remembered today as the long time manager of the Giants (1902-1932) and is widely regarded as the greatest manager to come from the ranks of the players.

In fall 1912, McGraw toured the big time Keith circuit for 15 weeks, telling baseball anecdotes and sharing his philosophy of management, for the top salary of $3,000 a week, an exorbitant sum in that or any era. McGraw also appeared in the silent films Breaking into the Big League (1913), Detective Swift (1914), Right Off the Bat (1915), One Touch of Nature (1917), and Fighting Mad (1919). Other major league ball players who performed in vaudeville include Babe Ruth, Rube Marquard, Mike “King” Kelly, Cap Anson, Mike Donlin, and Jack Farrell.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.