Mack’s White Elephants and McGraw’s Black Cats

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on January 10, 2012:

“I ain’t superstitious, but a black cat’s crossing my trail.” It’s easy to imagine bluesman Willie Dixon singing this, but it’s also a line John McGraw might have penned on the eve of the 1905 World Series. He was about to square off against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, who had proudly adopted the epithet White Elephants, hurled at them by McGraw during the war with the National League in 1902. In Mack’s own words, from his 1950 autobiography:

In 1902 the Baltimore Club forfeited its franchise in the newly formed American League. Its spot was filled by the New York Highlanders, “the acorn from which sprung the mighty Yankee oak.” The astute John McGraw took advantage of the opportunity and jumped from the crumbling Orioles to the New York Giants, a leap to fame and fortune. When the sportswriters gathered around McGraw to fire a barrage of questions, one of the questions was, “What do you think of the Philadelphia A’s?”

“White elephants!” quickly retorted Mr. McGraw. “Mr. B. F. Shibe has a white elephant on his hands.”

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Originally published: January 10, 2012. Last Updated: January 10, 2012.