On March 4, 1903, Matty had married Jane Stoughton. There was something of a prenuptial agreement. Matty promised to leave the Baptist faith of his upbringing and worship in Jane's Presbyterian church, while she swore to give up her Democratic affiliation and join his Republican party. Then they set off to honeymoon in Savannah. There Matty would spend his first spring training under the iron hand of McGraw, who, according to one contemporary umpire, "eats gunpowder every morning and washes it down with warm blood."
Jane Mathewson soon met the manager's wife. At first Blanche McGraw was put off by Jane, the country girl with her Sunday-schoolteacher airs. Blanche suspected that Jane looked down on her for wearing too much jewelry. Blanche had herself been married only a year, and she and Jane were about the same age, but Jane's family was respectable old Pennsylvania farm stock, while Blanche was Baltimore nouveau. More important, Blanche was Roman Catholic, and at that time, in baseball as in much of American life, there was a nasty Sunni-Shiite divide among Christians. It had not helped the woebegone Giants, for instance, that their Catholic and Protestant players generally despised one another.
McGraw was Catholic. Irish, too, through and through. He was a John Joseph, called Muggsy (presumably after the comic-strip tramp), which he hated, and Mickey Face, which, for some reason, he could abide. The heart of the Baltimore Orioles, with whom he'd made his mark in the Gay Nineties, had been Irish: Wee Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley, Wilbert Robinson and Hughie Jennings. On Jan. 8, 1902, they were Muggsy's groomsmen when he married Blanche.
Well, it turned out that in the spring of Aught-Three the two young wives, stuck together, quickly discovered that they genuinely liked each other. Blanche asked Muggsy about her new friend's husband. "Looks like a pitcher with both his head and his arm," he said. She didn't mean that. She didn't mean baseball. But that was Muggsy. "Life without baseball had very little meaning to him," Blanche once said. "It was his meat, drink, dream, his blood and breath, his very reason for existence." McGraw did like the Presbyterian college man, who, although only seven years his junior, had grown up in his thrall.
"I worshiped him in those days, little thinking that I should ever play for him," Mathewson recalled later. Ah, but somewhere within the pugnacious McGraw there was surely just as much admiration for his majestic kid pitcher. In fact, McGraw must've been at least somewhat jealous of Matty; after all, everybody else was.
At a time when the average ballplayer stood barely 5'9", McGraw was stumpy, only 5'6�". Not for nothing would he come to be known, redundantly, as Little Napoleon. He was pasty-faced, which set off his black eyes and black hair all the more. He wore his hair swirled fashionably on the sides (known as the fish-hook effect) and tried hard to be stylish, favoring Cuban shirts with the blue serge suits that every gentleman then wore, all year round.
Sometime during that spring training, the McGraws invited the Mathewsons to live with them in Manhattan. The four rented a ground-floor apartment for $50 a month on the Upper West Side, at Columbus and 85th. Muggsy paid the rent and the gas, and Matty paid for the food. The arrangement turned out just fine. Blanche said, "Jane and I fed the men and left them alone to talk their baseball. Their happiness was our cause."
Still, for all their success, all they would mean to the national pastime, only once did McGraw and Mathewson drink to a World Series victory together. It's tragic, really, how heartbreak and disease and death always overshadowed their achievements. Even that first spring.
McGraw was only 30 years old, but he was an old 30. In the previous few years he'd had malaria and typhoid, not to mention all manner of injuries. Then, at the Polo Grounds, before the third game of the '03 season, McGraw was slapping fungoes while, in the outfield, a deaf-mute pitcher named Dummy Taylor was shagging flies. (In those less gracious times, mutes were called Dummy, just as Native Americans were invariably called Chief.) Taylor threw back a ball, and it hit McGraw in the face, smashing his nose and breaking a blood vessel in his throat that caused a frightening crimson gusher from his mouth and nose.
The injury would affect McGraw's sinuses and make him vulnerable to upper respiratory infections for the rest of his life. But he was back from the hospital before the game ended, his nose stuffed with cotton. Then, although still in distress, he prepared to take off on a road trip, but Blanche would not allow it unless she came along to nurse him. Reluctantly, Muggsy agreed, but with one proviso: that Matty stay behind, so his young bride would not be left alone in the strange new city. McGraw mandated this even though it meant that his star pitcher would miss a start. Nobody had ever heard of such a concession from Muggsy McGraw.