Stealing Games: How John McGraw Transformed Baseball with the 1911 New York Giants

Written by Maury Klein
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1911, the New York Giants of the National League stole 347 bases, a record that still stands today. The early baseball seasons were known as the Deadball Era. Games were played, won and lost, by hitting singles, using the hit and run, playing good defense, and utilizing speed. Home runs were few and far between – balls hit were lucky to go over the fence. During this age of baseball, well-known players were known by their aggressive play – players like Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner; likewise, good defenders like the Chicago Cubs’ infield of Tinker, Evers and Chance.

The Giants were primarily known for their memorable manager, John McGraw, and their Hall of Fame pitcher, Christy Mathewson. During the first decade of the 20th century, the Giants were probably the best team in the National League, along with the Cubs and the Pirates, who would fight it out for the championship each year and meet the American League champion in the World Series games. This book is about those stars of the past, the history of the early Giants leading up to 1911, and, finally, the 1911 season, month by month.

This is a well-researched book on the early baseball seasons, especially that of 1911. It contains notes and an appendix. If you enjoy reading about baseball players, and the circumstances surrounding the games played, you will enjoy Mr. Klein’s narrative. His ability to write using occasional dialog and text from newspapers adds to the feeling of “being there.” Highly recommended.