Heinie Groh had been obtained from Cincinnati to play third base. Groh was a small but powerful man, one of the great bat doctors of all time. He used a 46-ounce bat with a handle that had been shaved down until the whole bat looked like an elongated Bordeaux bottle. The acquisition of Groh enabled Frankie Frisch to move from third base to second, his natural position and a spot where his abilities as a field leader could flourish.
For centerfield, McGraw had obtained Charles Dillon Stengel from the Phillies (Casey, a Phillie?) in mid-1921. In '22 McGraw used him well, platooning him in center with Bill Cunningham. But almost more important was Stengel's other role. He would sit on the bench beside McGraw, developing strategies and serving as a coach without portfolio. It was here that Casey acquired the knowledge that later served him as a manager.
In the '22 Series, McGraw again found ways to handle Ruth. What the methods lacked in subtlety they made up for in effectiveness. Ruth saw little but low, outside curveballs for the entire Series. And he heard little but epithets from the Giants' infielders—racial epithets. There were not many ways to get the Bambino riled, but one of them was to suggest that his physical prowess—baseball and otherwise—stemmed from black ancestry. Ruth took the bait. He was so distracted that he hit .118 for the Series.
Not surprisingly, the Giants swept the Series. Once again McGraw's style of baseball seemed vindicated. The Yankees had been easily dispatched twice, and now McGraw had what appeared to be an added bonus. The Yankees were leaving the Polo Grounds, although not quite in the way the Giants had envisioned. By evicting the Yankees the Giants had hoped to send them wandering around the city, eventually to settle in some shabby digs, presumably in a remote section of Queens. Instead, Yankee Stadium was built in full view of the Polo Grounds, on a tract of land across the Harlem River purchased from the Astor Estate. Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert had rushed the stadium to completion in less than a year. It was there in 1923 that the real Giants-Yankees showdown finally took place.
McGraw went into the '23 Series on the threshold of his most cherished goal: three consecutive world championships. All that his Giants had to do was beat a team they had already handled in '21 and '22. But first there had to be a few introductory hostilities between the clubs.
This time the center of the storm was 20-year-old Lou Gehrig. McGraw's scouts had spotted Gehrig in the summer of 1921, just before he entered Columbia University on a football scholarship. Through some quick talking they had signed him to a professional baseball contract and hidden him at the Eastern League's Hartford club under another name—not an uncommon practice of the day. But a former A's and Highlanders hurler named Andy Coakley, who was then the Columbia baseball coach, got wind of the move. Coakley went to a Hartford game to confront Gehrig. "What," he demanded, "are you doing in that uniform?"
Coakley dragged Gehrig back to New York, saved his scholarship and extricated him from the Hartford contract. Gehrig played football and baseball for Columbia; then the Yankees signed him in the spring of '23. Where did they send him? To Hartford, of course. He tore up the league. The Yankees brought him up at the end of the year, and he hit .423 in 13 games. It appeared that they had another treasure.
But Gehrig had not moved up to the big club until after Sept. 1, which meant that he was ineligible for the Series. Co-incidentally, first baseman Wally Pipp had suffered a painful rib injury. The Yankees requested that Gehrig take Pipp's place on the World Series roster. Baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis responded that Gehrig could play only if the opposing manager consented. McGraw, keeping the events of 1921 in mind, was quite happy to withhold consent. First Hoyt had gotten away to the Yankees. Next Ruth. Now Gehrig. It was all too much for McGraw. "The hazards of baseball," he said. "The rules are quite specific." Gehrig was not allowed to play, Pipp was patched up, and the World Series of 1923 began.
So disdainful was McGraw of everything connected with the Yankees that he refused even to use the new Yankee Stadium locker rooms. His players could change sweatshirts in the stadium's clubhouse, nothing more. For Yankee home games McGraw's troops used their locker room at the Polo Grounds, then took cabs across the Harlem River into enemy territory.
In the ninth inning of the opening game with the score tied at 4-4, Stengel hit what might have been a single to left center. Leftfielder Bob Meusel had been guarding the line. Centerfielder Whitey Witt had been shifted toward right. Before anyone could quite figure out how it had happened, the ball was between them, hopping toward the wall 450 feet away, and Casey was running as if his life depended on it. Because anything involving Stengel had to have a comic touch, he was cheering himself on at the same time, yelling, "Go on, Casey, go on!"