July 15 – Happy Birthday Dan McGann

mcgannWhen Hideki Irabu was found dead in his California home in July 2011, he became the third ex-Yankee franchise player who’s death was ruled a suicide. The two other suicide victims were both born on July 15th.

Dan McGann was a very good switch-hitting big league first baseman who became best friends with the legendary John McGraw when the two were National League teammates and starting infielders on the 1898 Baltimore Orioles. A native of Shelbyville, Kentucky, McGann was considered one of the league’s better first basemen.

He and McGraw were split up in 1899 when McGraw was traded to St Louis and McGann went to Brooklyn. Two years later they were reunited in St Louis. Then in 1901, McGraw was wooed back to Baltimore to manage that city’s first American League franchise, also called the Orioles. One year later, Little Napoleon convinced McGann to join him there and become the team’s starting first baseman in 1902. He did well in that role, averaging .316 during the 68 games he played for the team that season. But when McGraw couldn’t get along with or trust AL President Ban Johnson, he decided to leave the O’s to accept the New York Giants’ field skipper’s position, McGann again packed his bags and accompanied his old friend. In New York, McGraw made McGann his starting first baseman in a move that just may have changed the course of Giants’ history. Before McGann arrived, Christy Matthewson had been playing first base for the team in between his starts on the mound. After McGann showed up, McGraw made the then 21-year-old Matthewson a full-time pitcher and he would go on to win 373 big league games.

Meanwhile, McGann’s bat, glove and speed on the base paths helped the Giants capture the 1904 and ’05 pennants and the first-ever World Series, with their victory over the A’s in ’05. But as McGann aged he lost a step and in the Dead Ball era, when a player’s speed was especially critical to his offensive value, his average plummeted by over 60 points in 1906, his last full season as a Giant starter. His failure to produce on the field also had a negative impact on his relationship with McGraw off of it. They went from best drinking buddies to barely speaking to each other and in 1908, McGraw traded McGann to the Braves.

Two years later, on December 10, 1910, McGann’s lifeless body was found in a Louisville hotel room, the victim of a gunshot to the chest. The death was ruled a suicide. Two of McGann’s sisters disputed that finding, citing a missing diamond ring as evidence their brother had been murdered during a robbery attempt. Others however pointed to the deterioration of his playing skills and tragic family history as reasons why they thought the coroner had ruled correctly. One of McGann’s brothers had killed himself the previous year, another brother had died from an accidental shooting and one of his sisters had also killed herself.

Thirty eight years later, this Yankee outfielder who shares McGann’s birth date, also shot and killed himself. This former Yankee catcher was also born on July 15th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1902 BLA 68 285 250 40 79 10 8 0 42 17 19 13 .316 .378 .420 .798
12 Yrs 1437 6051 5226 842 1482 181 100 42 727 282 429 334 .284 .364 .381 .744
NYG (6 yrs) 682 2835 2430 360 678 94 42 16 290 151 224 151 .279 .358 .372 .730
BSN (2 yrs) 178 740 646 77 169 14 12 4 85 11 50 40 .262 .338 .339 .677
STL (2 yrs) 224 976 867 152 247 25 18 10 114 43 48 72 .285 .356 .390 .745
WHS (1 yr) 77 321 284 65 96 9 8 5 58 11 14 12 .338 .405 .479 .884
BLN (1 yr) 145 635 535 99 161 18 8 5 106 33 53 30 .301 .404 .393 .796
BRO (1 yr) 63 259 214 49 52 11 4 2 32 16 21 16 .243 .362 .360 .722
BLA (1 yr) 68 285 250 40 79 10 8 0 42 17 19 13 .316 .378 .420 .798
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/15/2013.

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