One of the best first basemen of the Deadball Era, Dan McGann was John McGraw’s team captain on his first New York Giants teams. The switch-hitting first sacker did all the little things right. He was an elite defender who led the league in fielding percentage six years. Willing and able to do what was best for the team, McGann was a notorious plate-crowder who often led the league in getting hit by pitched balls. He was plunked 230 times in his career–7th on the all-time list.
Before McGann established himself with the Giants, he was a nomadic ballplayer. He made his debut with the Boston Beaneaters in 1896 and hit a robust .322 as a freshman. The Washington Senators bought his contract after the 1897 season but before he played a game with them, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for three veterans: Jack Doyle, Doc Amole and Heinie Reitz. The Orioles finished second in the NL under Hall of Fame skipper Ned Hanlon as McGann drove in 106 runs and was introduced to his longtime manager John McGraw who played third base for the Birds.
McGann split the 1899 season between Brooklyn and Washington. He finally gained a foothold in 1900 when the Cardinals bought his contract. With the Redbirds in 1900, Dan led the league in getting hit by pitched balls 24 times. At the age of 29, for the first time in his career, he joined the team he played for the previous season when the Cardinals brought him back in 1901. He paced National League first basemen in homeruns while finishing second in fielding percentage.
McGann returned to his nomadic ways in 1902, but on his own accord. Rather than a trade or having his contract purchased, Dan jumped the Cardinals and signed with the American League’s Baltimore Orioles where he played for McGraw. But McGraw hated American League president Ban Johnson and left the Orioles midseason to manage the Giants in the National League. McGann promptly jumped the Orioles and joined McGraw with the Giants. It was in New York where McGann became a star.
Nicknamed “Cap” for his team-leading ways, McGann tied for the most long balls by a National League first baseman in 1903. A well-rounded player, Captain Dan also stole 36 bases and began a five-year string of leading NL first basemen in fielding percentage, even though Chicago’s Frank Chance had a poem extolling his defensive skills–which was all too exaggerated. Given that Chance played and managed the powerhouse Cubs, and played the exact position as Cap, Dan was always measured against him. They each stole 42 bases in 1904 but McGann exceeded Chance in the more important RBI department.
The Giants captured the NL flag in 1905 as McGann led National League first basemen in homeruns, triples and slugging average. In the second modern World Series, the Giants romped their way to an easy victory as Cap paced all participants in runs batted in. But after 1905, the Cubs dynasty kept all comers at bay and McGann never again made another Fall Classic appearance.
After a down 1906 season, McGann rebounded in 1907 at the age of 35 by leading NL first basemen in batting average and slugging average. He led first basemen in fielding percentage, per usual, but because he was aging, McGraw traded him to the Braves for their slick-fielding first baseman Fred Tenney. Cap played one final year at the Major League level with the Braves in 1908 and led the league in his specialty–getting hit by pitched balls. He ended his playing days in the minors with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1910, at which date he took his own life.
G 1,436/R 842/H 1,482/2B 181/3B 100/HR 42/RBI 727/SB 282/BA .284/SA .381/OBP .364