When Art Devlin passed to the great beyond, the headline of his obituary called him the “Giants greatest third sacker.”
Those words were true: Devlin was a quick, surehanded infielder with great range to his left. Though he was a large man, he was excellent at charging in to field short grounders and throwing across his body to first base. He was also a fast runner despite being a shade over six-feet tall, which in the early 1900s was tall.
Devlin came to the New York Giants from the campus of Georgetown University, where he was a star in baseball and football. In college he played shortstop for one of the best teams in the country. One of his teammates was Doc White, who later starred in the American League for the White Sox.
When New York manager John McGraw agreed to purchase Devlin’s services after his first professional season with Newark in the Eastern League, he immediately inserted the rookie into his infield.
Devlin was confident and sure of himself. His cockiness and background earned him the derisive nickname of “McGraw’s College Boy.” At that time in baseball, few college educated men were in professional baseball. Devlin decided to fight for the bragging rights of all of them, refusing to back down when opponents gave him a hard time.
As a rookie in 1904, Devlin batted .281 and drove in 66 runs. He was immediately one of the flashiest third basemen in the game. With shortstop Bill Dahlen, Devlin formed a groundball trap on the left side of the infield for the Giants. The team won 106 games, but after the regular season concluded, McGraw showed his stubbornness when he refused to allow Devlin and the rest of Giants play the American League champion in the new postseason series that folks were calling the “World’s Series.”
Playing the hot corner, Devlin set the season and single game record for most chances handled by a third baseman. It was true that decades later, he was considered the best third baseman to ever wear a Giants uniform.
In 1905, the Giants repeated as National League champions, and in the ensuing “World’s Series” (McGraw agreed to play this time), New York defeated the Athletics easily. For years, McGraw insisted that his ’05 team was his best.
Devlin played on one more pennant-winner for McGraw, in 1911. But by then he was slowing down and was replaced at third by Buck Herzog. He spent two seasons with the Braves before retiring as a player to take a coaching job in the minors. He resurfaced at the college level later to manage Fordham University in New York. It was there that he paid back McGraw for the chance he was given when he was a young player.
At Fordham, Devlin managed Frankie Frisch, a dynamic infielder who had speed, a quick bat, and could range all over the infield for groundballs. When Art told McGraw about his young phenom, the crusty old Giant was suspicious.
“No college kid can be that good,” McGraw reportedly said. But after the New York manager went to Travers Island in New York to see young Frisch play in a sandlot game, he was impressed. A few weeks later he paid for Frisch, who became the leader of the next great Giants dynasty in the 1920s.
In retirement, Devlin took a job at a hospital in New Jersey as an attendant. Another employee was Danny Murphy, the former infielder for the A’s, who had faced Devlin in the 1905 Series. Devlin and Murphy became great friends during their years in baseball, and spent several years working in the hospital together. When Devlin died in 1948, Murphy served as a pallbearer.