Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Only Known Motion Picture Footage of 1924 World Series Championship Game Found!

The only known motion picture footage of game seven of the 1924 baseball World Series has been discovered hidden in the rafters of a "non-climate controlled" garage in a suburb of Worcester, Massachusetts.  The film was on nitrate stock, one of the least likely film stocks to survive (and one of the film stocks most likely to burst into flames spontaneously, given its chemical composition).  The amazing footage is embedded, and may be viewed, at the end of today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog.

What, pray tell, might such an amazing discovery regarding baseball history have to do with the history of Pelham, New York?  Therein, as I like to say, lies a lovely story.

In the 1924 baseball World Series, the New York Giants lost in seven games to the Washington Senators.  The Giants were, at the time, the first team to play in four consecutive World Series.  They were led by their long-time manager, John McGraw, of Pelham Manor, New York.  

I have written before about Baseball Hall of Famer and Pelham Manor Resident John McGraw.  See  John McGraw of Pelham Manor: Baseball Hall of Famer, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 28, July 16, 2004, p. 10, col. 1.

1911 T205 Tobacco Card Depicting
John McGraw When He Managed the
New York Giants.  Source:  Library of Congress.

John Joseph McGraw managed baseball’s New York Giants for 31 years.  He is described as “perhaps the single most significant figure in baseball’s history before Babe Ruth”.  He led his players to 10 pennants and 11 second-place finishes.  His teams won the World Series three times. He is one of the most winning baseball managers of all time with 2,840 victories. 

McGraw, lived in Pelham Manor during the 1920s and early 1930s.  McGraw played as a scrappy and fiery third baseman for the Orioles throughout the 1890's.  By 1899, however, he had found his calling.  He became Baltimore’s player-manager. McGraw's ultimate success as a manager stemmed from his burning competitiveness and his insatiable desire to win at any cost.  An apocryphal story is told of his first year managing Baltimore.  While coaching third base he tricked the opposing pitcher with an old ruse.  Baltimore had a base runner on first.  Between pitches, while the game was underway and the ball was live, McGraw shouted to the opposing pitcher saying he wanted to see the ball.  Oblivious to the scheme, the pitcher tossed the ball to McGraw “who smilingly stepped aside and watched the ball roll to the grandstand fence.”  The runner on first took off for second and scored on a subsequent single.

On January 8, 1902, McGraw married Blanche Sindall, a young woman from Baltimore. She was his second wife.  His first died of a burst appendix.  He married Blanche Sindall amid difficult professional circumstances.  The American League seemed set to expand into New York City.  McGraw feared that the Baltimore franchise would be shut down at the end of the season in favor of a new franchise in New York.  Consequently, McGraw quietly arranged his release from Baltimore and signed a four-year contract to manage the New York Giants for a salary of $11,000 per year. 

McGraw’s move was a good one.  He ultimately became part owner of the Giants and the most celebrated manager of his time.  In 1904 the Giants won the pennant.  The next season, the team won the World Series.  During the next 15 seasons he led his team to first or second place finishes 11 times. 

In 1921, forty-nine year old John McGraw – known to millions as “Little Napoleon” – was in his thirty-second year of professional baseball and at the peak of his career.  In the midst of a season that would bring him the seventh of his ten National League Pennants and the first “all New York World Series” against the Yankees, McGraw decided to move with his wife, Blanche, to Pelham Manor – only a few miles from the Polo Grounds where the Giants played.  

McGraw’s biographer says that the McGraws purchased “a ten-room brick house on Edgewood Avenue” in late 1920.  The Pelham Sun reported that the couple moved into the home at 915 Edgewood in August 1921.  According to Charles Alexander’s biography: 

“It was the first residence McGraw had owned since he and his first wife lived in [a rowhouse] in Baltimore more than twenty years earlier.  Never having learned to operate an automobile, McGraw depended on Edward James, a young black man whom he’d befriended and brought from San Antonio, to chauffeur him the nine or ten miles from Pelham to the Polo Grounds. Also living at the house in Pelham was Mildred Jefferson, a hefty black woman who became the McGraws’ cook and maid shortly after they moved in.”

915 Edgewood Avenue Where Blanche and John McGraw
Lived While He Managed the New York Giants.  Source:
Photo by the Author Taken on July 4, 2004.

The McGraw home on Edgewood Avenue saw many illustrious guests.  Dave Bancroft, future Hall of Famer, and his wife Edna were frequent guests.  The illustrious Casey Stengel, another future Hall of Famer, spent much of his time at the McGraw house.  Indeed: “Often in the early morning hours, Blanche McGraw would awaken to the sounds and smells of Stengel and her husband in the kitchen, frying bacon and eggs and still talking baseball.  Those long nighttime sessions were part of the education under McGraw that Stengel would cite when, many years later, people asked how he’d become one of the winningest managers in the game’s history.” 

In addition, future Hall of Famer Frank Frisch spent what he later described as the two most enjoyable hours “in my life” sipping wine and “talking about everything but baseball” with McGraw in the home on Edgewood Avenue.  

The McGraws also entertained guests at the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island and attended Mass at St. Catharine’s in the Village of North Pelham. 

John McGraw entertained so frequently that, according to one report, his wife urged him to move to a somewhat smaller home in Pelham Manor hoping it would “discourage her husband from bringing home so many overnight guests”.  According to McGraw’s biographer: “In October [1930] they sold the place [at 915 Edgewood] and moved into ‘a Colonial-type brick dwelling’ at 620 Ely Avenue [also in] Pelham Manor.  Formerly occupied by an investment trust executive and his family, the house had nine rooms and three baths and sold for $65,000.  Although McGraw gasped at the size of the mortgage, the sale of the bigger house . . . according to Blanche McGraw, covered most of it.”

620 Ely Avenue Where Blanche and John McGraw
Lived While He Managed the New York Giants.  Source:
Photo by the Author Taken on July 4, 2004.

John McGraw’s tenure in the lovely home at 620 Ely Avenue was short-lived.  By the fall of 1933, he was dying of prostate cancer.  By early 1934, according to his biographer, “he was suffering more and more . . . and [was] unable to spend much time away from the comfort and privacy of 620 Ely Avenue.”  In February he reportedly felt so badly while visiting Manhattan he asked his driver, Edward James, to take him home quickly.  That night, February 16, 1934, his physician, Dr. Louis B. Chapman, admitted him to New Rochelle Hospital.  

John McGraw deteriorated quickly. As he lay dying on February 24, it began to snow heavily.  His biographer says: “Father Vincent de Paul Mulry, pastor at [St. Catharine’s] Church in [North] Pelham, the McGraws’ parish, led [a] group in prayer in the corridor outside the dying man’s room.  Then, they, together with the three attending physicians, waited by his bedside until 11:50 a.m., when Chapman shook his head and told the others that it was all over.  McGraw had died on Sunday, February 25, 1934”. 

After embalming, John McGraw’s body was taken to the McGraw home at 620 Ely Avenue.  Tributes arrived from around the nation and Pelham Manor’s snow-clogged streets were overrun with mourners.  According to one report: “Vehicles could barely navigate streets clogged with snow that by late afternoon measured nine inches.  Nonetheless, people began coming as soon as they heard, as many as could make it, given the weather.  On Ely Avenue workmen with shovels and cinders, dispatched by town authorities, tried to keep the street passable.  Many more people came on Monday and Tuesday to view McGraw’s remains, which lay in a plain mahogany casket, his hands holding a crucifix.  [Future Hall of Famers] Frank Frisch and Bill Terry (who’d left the Giants in spring training at Miami Beach as soon as he got the news) stood together for a long time beside the casket.”  

Blanche McGraw had her husband’s body entombed in Baltimore.  One can say, however, that the true epitaph of Pelham Manor’s most famous professional ballplayer was written for the plaque dedicated to his memory in 1937 when he was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It reads: 


Star Third-Baseman of the Great Baltimore Orioles, National League Champions in the ‘90’s. For 30 Years Manager of the New York Giants Starting in 1902. Under His Leadership the Giants Won 10 Pennants and 5 World Championships."

John McGraw in 1924.
Source:  Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.
Extracted from Larger Image for Wikipedia.

The newly-discovered motion picture footage of the 1924 World Series championship game seems to show then Pelham Manor resident and Giants manager John McGraw appears fleetingly in instances during which the camera pans the visiting team's dugout.  For example, for a fleeting moment at 1:52 into the film. an individual believed to be McGraw is standing on the top step of the dugout just below field level toward third base watching as one of his players scores from third base during the sixth inning.  

The footage is important for a host of reasons.  It shows future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson making his first World Series appearance at the age of 36, pitching for the Washington Senators.  He pitched the last four innings of game seven.  It shows Muddy Ruel scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning.  It shows the only time a Washington, D.C. team has ever won the World Series.

The footage is embedded immediately below.  Click on the arrow in the film frame to watch.  Use the pause button at exactly 1:52 to see the man believed to be Little Napoleon.

To read about the discovery of this unique footage, see:

Mashon, Mike, Film of the Washington Senators Winning the 1924 World Series Found! (October 2, 2014) (visited Oct. 3, 2014).  

To read more about John McGraw and the 1924 World Series, see:

John McGraw, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (visited Oct. 3, 2014).

1924 World Series, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (visited Oct. 3, 2014).

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