Alexander is the Ohio University historian whose 1984 study, Ty Cobb, chronicled the life of a truly tough baseball player. This thorough and energetic new biography dissects legendary N.Y. Giants manager John McGraw--who makes the likes of Billy Martin, Earl Weaver, and Dick Williams look like marshmallows. The feisty McGraw was born in a little upstate N.Y. village in 1873 and grew up eating, sleeping, and dreaming the hard-hitting, rough-hewn, eccentric baseball--rural baseball--of the pre-stadium 19th century. McGraw was not a naturally talented ballplayer, but his hustle and fierce desire made him a star third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890's. But in 1902, at the age of 29, he became manager of the N.Y. Giants and really came into his own, staying on for 30 years, winning ten pennants, and bringing his brand of hitting, running, platooning baseball into the big-business, big-stadium 20th century. Alexander's narrative provides glimpses of baseball's fabled past barely imaginable in these days of Astroturf and Big Brother instant replays: McGraw limping back to the dugout after ferociously attacking an opposing player, his ""black wool stocking soaked with blood""; McGraw (never equaled as an umpire baiter) screaming at ump Bill Klem, ""I can lick any umpire in the league""; and McGraw on numerous occasions suspected of involvement in shady deals to fix games. And on occasion, Alexander concludes, the pointing fingers were right on. Yet before he died in 1934, McGraw had become one of the greatest managers of all time--Casey Stengel learned at his knee. Crisply observed, intensely researched--a potent antidote for fans tired of three-million-dollar baseball players and nickel ball.