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Connie Mack

Connie Mack

Connie Mack (1862-1956) was a patrician figure who managed more games than anyone else in baseball history. He led the Philadelphia Athletics to nine American League pennants and five World Series championships. Reserved and dignified, Mack left an indelible stamp on baseball.

In his playing days, Connie Mack was a star catcher for Washington in the 1880s and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1890s. He managed the Pittsburgh team before taking over the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901. Mack eventually became sole owner of the Athletics and did not retire until 1950, at the age of 87.

Early Years in Baseball

Cornelius McGillicuddy was born in East Brookfield, Massachusetts, on December 22, 1862, to Mary (McKillop) and Michael McGillicuddy. By the time he was nine, the tall, thin boy, nicknamed "Slats," was working at a cotton mill. His father died when Cornelius was a teenager, and he became the family breadwinner. At 16, he began work in a shoe factory and became a foreman by the time he was 20.

While working at the factory, McGillicuddy played semi-pro baseball for East Brookfield. When he was 21, the Meriden club in the Connecticut State League offered him $90 a month to play catcher. At that time it was a hefty salary. Meriden shortened his name to "Connie Mack" to fit on scorecards, and the nickname stuck. Mack went on to play for Hartford and then Newark, two other minor league teams. Then, along with four other players, he was sold for the then enormous sum of $3,500 to the Washington team in the National League.

In 1886, Mack played in ten games for Washington and hit .361. But after that season there was a key rule change: batters could no longer call for the pitcher to throw a high or low pitch. When pitchers learned that Mack couldn't hit low pitches, his batting average sunk to .201 in 1887 and to .187 in 1888. He was never a good hitter after that, but he was a good enough fielder that he hung on for eleven seasons as a big-league player. In 1890, he played for Buffalo (in the short-lived Players League), and from 1891 through 1896 he was a catcher for Pittsburgh.

At six foot one, Mack was a tall man for his era, commanding attention with his quiet, deliberate speech. He knew so much about baseball strategy that he quickly became a respected leader. At a time when baseball was a rowdy, disreputable sport, Mack always projected the aura of a gentleman. Devoutly religious, he never swore or drank. After Mack assumed the post of manager at Pittsburgh in 1894, he forbade his players from drinking alcohol during the season. In 1897, he played his last games while managing Milwaukee in the Western League. He managed four years for Milwaukee's owner, Ban Johnson, the pioneer organizer who soon turned the Western League into the American League.

American League Stalwart

Mack was the major force behind the establishment of a Philadelphia club in the American League. The new league wanted to challenge the supremacy of the established National League, represented in Philadelphia by the Phillies. Mack recruited Benjamin Shibe, a manufacturer of baseball equipment, to become president and the club's chief financier. Shibe Park was built for a home field. Some critics derided the new club as the city's "white elephant," a useless acquisition, but Mack turned the insult into a logo, and for decades the team sported white elephants on its uniforms.

Under the leadership of Mack and Rube Waddell, a hard-throwing pitcher Mack had signed in 1900, the Athletics rose quickly to the top, winning the American League pennant in 1902. Mack led the team to a second pennant in 1905 and to its first appearance in the World Series, in which the Athletics lost to John McGraw's New York Giants. In 1903, 1907 and 1909, Mack's club finished second in the league.

In 1910, Mack married Katherine Hallahan. From a previous marriage, he had three sons, Roy, Earle and Connie Jr., all of whom eventually became executives with the Athletics. The club would become virtually a Mack family business.

In 1910 and 1911, the Athletics returned to the World Series and became world champions, beating the Chicago Cubs and then the Giants. The team was anchored by its famous "$100,000 infield" of Hall of Famers Frank Baker, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Stuffy McInnis. Mack said the 1912 team was one of his best, though it finished third. During that season the owners of the New York Highlanders (later renamed the Yankees) offered Mack the manager's job there, but he remained loyal to Shibe and Philadelphia. Again in 1913, the Athletics beat the Giants in the World Series. They repeated as league champions in 1914 but were upset by the Boston Braves in the Series.

Mack often was contrasted with McGraw, the fiery leader of the Giants, because their personalities and leadership styles were so opposite. "Mack, tall, thin as a beanpole, even-tempered, mild-mannered … was as much a father to his players as their manager," wrote baseball historians Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig. According to historian Harold Seymour, Mack was "serene, mild-mannered, seldom ruffled … the stoically patient leader … inspiring affection and regard." Collins was among many who praised Mack for expressing strong confidence in his players' abilities. "You would have to comb the world to find a man possessed of such ability to make human beings extend themselves," Collins said.

Peaks and Valleys

In his first 14 seasons at Philadelphia, Mack's Athletics finished in first place six times and in second place three times. They had only one losing season. But with the rival Federal League luring star players away and the club's finances dwindling due to indifferent attendance, Mack suddenly sold off all his aging stars. This move forever gained the cautious Mack the reputation in Philadelphia of being a skinflint who cared more about profits than pennants.

In 1914, Mack's team won 99 games and lost 53. The next year, the Athletics won 43 games and lost 109. Mack hunkered down to survive the lean years of World War I. Starting in 1916, his club finished in last place for seven consecutive years before making a slow climb back to contention in the mid-1920s.

Philadelphia became a baseball powerhouse again in the period from 1925 through 1933, led by such Hall of Famers as pitcher Lefty Grove, catcher Mickey Cochrane and slugging outfielder Jimmie Foxx, all players whom Mack had recruited and carefully nurtured. He worked hard to learn about promising young players and sign them, and always made a long-term commitment to their success. Mack prized intelligent, hard-working, self-motivated gentlemen, much like himself, and stocked his teams with former college players.

During the nine years of Mack's second dynasty, the Athletics finished in third place twice, in second four times, and won three pennants, from 1929 through 1931. In 1929, Mack stunned fans and baseball experts by passing up Grove to start journeyman Howard Ehmke in the World Series opener against the Cubs. Ehmke struck out thirteen batters and won the game, and Mack used Grove in the bullpen throughout the Series, which Philadelphia won. After the season, Mack was awarded Philadelphia's prestigious Bok Prize for service to the city; it had never before been given to a sports figure.

The Athletics repeated as world champions in 1930, then lost the World Series in 1931. Mack had what he called "the highest-priced ball club in the history of the game," but once again, Philadelphia fans seemed to tire quickly of all the winning. With the Great Depression deepening, attendance continued to fall. Mack again broke up his team, selling four of his stars to Boston in 1935. "It has hurt me worse to break up my great teams than it has the fans," Mack wrote in an article in 1936 for the Saturday Evening Post. But, as he explained in more hard-nosed terms in his autobiography: "Baseball is strictly a competitive business that must be conducted on sound business principles."

A Symbol of Baseball

In 1937, Mack became the Athletics' president and treasurer. With his own finances tied even more closely to those of the club, he continued to spend little on acquiring established players. In Mack's final 16 seasons, his club became the laughingstock of baseball, never finishing higher than fourth place, and ending up in last place ten times.

Nonetheless, Mack's popularity grew. Fans would come to games just to see him standing in the dugout, waving his scorecard to signal his players on the field. He was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame at its inception as one of fifteen "Builders of Baseball." The Pennsylvania government set aside May 17 as Connie Mack Day. Philadelphia's George M. Cohan wrote a song, "Connie Mack Is the Grand Old Name." In 1941, against his wishes, the name of Shibe Park was changed to Connie Mack Stadium.

In a 1944 poll, Mack was voted the favorite manager of players and sportswriters. That year, a tribute to Mack was held before a home game. He was showered with accolades, and a baseball "dream team" as named by Mack appeared in their old uniforms. Still, Mack refused to retire from the game he loved.

In Mack's later years, he would not appear in the dugout until the game started, always dressed in his crisp blue suit with his high stiff collar. Decades before, most other managers had begun wearing team uniforms; Mack never did. He projected the formality and dignity of a bygone era, and was looked upon as a living baseball relic. Though he was still formally manager, his son Earle and others coaches actually ran the team in Mack's later years. Sometimes he could be heard ordering the names of bygone players into the game.

Historians argue that Mack's dismal final 16 seasons shouldn't diminish his credentials as one of baseball's greatest managers. "Like John McGraw, Mack had a staggering command of the details of the game," baseball researcher Bill James wrote.

Mack didn't retire until after the 1950 season, when he was almost 88. His 53 years as a major-league manager gave him career figures not approached by any other manager. He managed 7,755 big-league regular-season games and 43 World Series games, nearly 3,000 more than McGraw, who is second to Mack in games and victories. Mack's teams won 3,731 games and lost 3,948. He managed almost twice as many losses as anyone else in history; second was Bucky Harris with 2,218. With his refusal to give up despite losing season after losing season, Mack became the enduring, implacable symbol of baseball's resiliency and relentless optimism.

Mack remained president of the Athletics until 1954. After the season, Mack stepped down at the age of 92, and the Athletics moved to Kansas City, almost as if they could not bear to remain in Philadelphia without their founder and symbol. Mack died in Germantown, Pennsylvania on February 8, 1956.

Further Reading

The Baseball Encyclopedia, Macmillan, 1990.

James, Bill, The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers from 1870 to Today, Scribner, 1997.

McGillicuddy, Cornelius, Connie Mack's Baseball Book, King-sport Press, 1950.

Ritter, Lawrence and Donald Honig, The Image of their Greatness, Crown, 1979.

Seymour, Harold, Baseball: The Golden Age,, Oxford University Press, 1971. □

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Mack, Connie

Connie Mack

1862-1956

American baseball manager

Baseball was manager Connie Mack's lifelong career. He retired as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1950 after fifty years on the job, spanning the first half of the twentieth century. Mack was known and loved for his gentlemanly conduct both in and out of the dugout. He represented a fatherly figure to his players and built teams through his superb ability as a baseball talent scout. From the dugout, he controlled every play with the wave of a scorecard and was far ahead of his time in tracking where batters hit the ball off particular pitches. He was also known as a shrewd businessman who sold off his best players to keep his team operating in the black and then later rebuilt the team when the economy improved. Mack's Athletics vacillated between long losing streaks and brilliant winning streaks, taking home five World Series championships and nine American League pennants.

From Player to Manager

Connie Mack was born Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy on December 22, 1862, in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. He was the third of seven children of Irish immigrants Michael and Mary McKillop McGillicuddy. Cornelius's father died when the boy was a teen, and he went to work in a shoe factory to help support the family. He grew up so tall and thin that friends nicknamed him "Slats." Cornelius became the catcher on his town team, which won the Central Massachusetts championship. In 1884, at age twenty-one, he joined the Meriden, Connecticut team as catcher, making $90 a month. His mother disapproved, because at that time baseball was characterized by drinking, gambling, and fighting. Cornelius reassured her that he would not take part in these activities. True to his word, he never drank or swore, and he forbade his players from drinking alcohol during the baseball season. He later said, "There's room for gentlemen in every profession, and my profession is baseball."

Because Cornelius's name was too long to fit in a newspaper box score, it was shortened to "Connie

Mack," and the name stuck for life. At 6'1" and 150 pounds, straight-backed and blue-eyed, Mack was popular with players and fans. Although he played every position except pitcher and third base, Mack was at his best as a catcher. He came to have great respect for pitchers and believed that pitching made up eighty percent of a game. His ability to analyze pitching became one of the skills that made him so successful as a manager.

After playing for Pittsburgh for four years, Mack was made manager as well as catcher. In 1897 his friend Ban Johnson offered him the managerial job with the minor league Milwaukee team; Mack held that position for four years. When Johnson founded the American League, he offered Mack the Philadelphia franchise. Mack kept twenty-five percent and funded the rest through a partnership with Ben Shibe, the inventor of ball-winding machines. The Philadelphia Athletics played their first game under Mack's management in 1901.

Fifty Years of Ups and Downs

Over the next fifty years, the Athletics played in forty-three World Series games, winning five series, in 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, and 1930. They brought home nine American League pennants. The A's were dubbed a "white elephant" by McGraw after Mack bought top hitter Napoleon Lajoie and the team only came in fourth place in their first year. Mack showed both humor and resiliency by making the white elephant his team's emblem and leading it to an American League pennant the following year.

The Athletics' first great winning streak came in 1910-1914, when they won four pennants and three World Series, with Mack's "$100,000 infield" and pitcher Chief Bender. However, with the coming of World War I and in competition with the wealthy Federal League, Mack was forced to sell some of his best players, and the team fell to eighth and last places over the next seven seasons.

In 1925, at age sixty-two and basking in the Golden Age of sports, Mack rebuilt a powerful team. It included catcher Mickey Cochrane, pitchers Lefty Grove and Rube Walberg, hitter Al Simmons, and outfielder Mule Haas. The Athletics won two more World Series (1929 and 1930) and three more pennants. Mack stunned everyone by using Howard Ehmke as his starting pitcher in the 1929 World Series game against the Chicago Cubs. Ehmke, age thirty-five and a second-line pitcher, set a World Series record by striking out thirteen for a 3-1 win. Mack knew that Ehmke could pitch to the Cubs' right-handed hitters.

After his second winning streak, the Great Depression forced Mack to again sell off his best players, and the team dropped to the bottom of the league for the next twelve years. By 1940, Mack had acquired a majority interest in the A's from the Shibe family, and Mack's sons were team executives and coaches.

Chronology

1862 Born December 22 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts
1884 Joins professional Meriden team of Connecticut State League as catcher
1885 Plays for Hartford in Eastern League; traded to Washington of National League
1887 Marries Margaret Hogan on November 2; they will have three sons
1890 Joins Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players in fighting for players' rights; revolt results in formation of Players' League
1890 Invests $500 savings in Buffalo team of Players' League; loses it all when league collapses
1892 Wife, Margaret, dies
1894 Becomes manager of Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League
1896 Is dismissed from Pittsburgh; accepts Ban Johnson's offer to manage the Milwaukee team in the Western League
1901 Buys minority interest in Milwaukee team and moves it to Philadelphia after Johnson renames league American League; team becomes the Philadelphia Athletics
1910 Athletics win first World Series and league pennant
1910 Marries Katherine Hallahan; they will have five children
1914 Facing financial difficulties, Mack sells or releases his star players, resulting in a seven-year losing streak for the Athletics
1926 Athletics play first Sunday game ever in Philadelphia, after Mack and Tom Shibe decide Sunday baseball is allowed and get court injunction to prevent police interference
1929 After Mack rebuilds the team, Athletics win league pennant and World Series; Mack is given the Edward W. Bok Prize
1930-31 Athletics win two more pennants and another World Series (1930)
1933 Great Depression forces Mack to again sell star players
1937 Becomes president and treasurer of Philadelphia Athletics, but team continues to lose
1937 Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame
1940 Acquires controlling interest in the Athletics from the Ben Shibe family for $42,000
1944 Voted favorite manager of sportswriters and players
1950 Mack retires from managing, at almost 88 years old; his sons take control of Athletics, although Mack remains president
1953 Shibe Park is renamed Connie Mack Stadium, in spite of Mack's objections
1954 Resigns as president of the Athletics, at age 92; sons persuade him to sign from his sickbed for the sale of the Athletics to Arnold M. Johnson of Chicago
1955 Johnson moves Athletics to Kansas City, Missouri
1956 Mack dies on February 8, at age 93, at daughter's home in Germantown, Pennsylvania

Awards and Accomplishments

1910-11, 1913, 1929-30 As manager of Philadelphia Athletics, wins World Series
1930 Edward W. Bok Prize for service to the city and its people after Athletics win World Series in 1929
1933 Chosen to manage first American League team in All-Star Game
1937 Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame as one of fifteen Builders of Baseball
1938-39 May 17 designated Connie Mack Day in Pennsylvania; George M. Cohan writes song "Connie Mack Is the Grand Old Name"
1941 Shibe Park renamed Connie Mack Stadium
1944 Voted favorite manager of players and sportswriters; tribute is held before Athletics home game, featuring Mack's "dream team" in their old uniforms
1950 Named Honorary Manager of the All-Star Game by Major League baseball

Known as the Grand Old Man of Baseball and the Tall Tactician, Mack always appeared in the dugout wearing a crisp blue suit and a high, starched white collar and tie. In his seventies, Mack was expected to retire, but he held on until 1950, nearing 88. However, by this time the Phillies had become Philadelphia's favored team. After the 1954 season, Mack's sons sold the Athletics to Chicago businessman Arnold M. Johnson. Mack signed the papers from his bed during an illness, supposedly unaware that Johnson planned to move the team to Kansas City, Missouri. Mack died fifteen months later, at age 93.

Connie Mack operated his baseball teams as a business, relying on their success for the support of his family. Thriving and surviving in an age when baseball lacked the facilities, transportation, financing, and media coverage of today, he is considered one of the great innovators of the game. Known for his kindness and his tact in dealing with playershe once paid off a pitcher's debts and got a shortstop paroled from prisonhe endeared his team members into performing for him. Although sometimes viewed as a "pinchpenny" who broke apart championship teams, he operated one of the most highly paid teams in early baseball. Mack once wrote about entering baseball as a career: "Looking back at it, I can see every reason why I should not have taken the jump and only one reason why I did. Of course, I have made my living out of it, but more important than this, I love the game."

SELECTED WRITINGS BY MACK:

How To Play Base-Ball, Brewer, Barse & Co., 1908. Connie Mack's Baseball Book, Knopf, 1950; rev. ed. published as From Sandlot to Big League: Connie Mack's Baseball Book, 1960. My 66 Years in the Big Leagues: The Great Story of America's National Game, Winston, 1950.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Volume 19. "Connie Mack." Detroit: Gale Group, 1999.

Koppett, Leonard. The Man in the Dugout: Baseball's Top Managers and How They Got That Way. New York: Crown, 1993.

Voigt, David Quentin. "Connie Mack." Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 6: 1956-1960. American Council of Learned Societies, 1980.

Periodicals

"Connie Mack, Mr. Baseball, Dies in Philadelphia at the Age of 93." New York Times (February 9, 1956): 1, 31.

Stoddard, Maynard. "Baseball's Closest Calls." Saturday Evening Post (July-August 1989): 30.

Other

Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/ (October 14, 2002), "Connie Mack."

Macht, Norman L. "Connie Mack." Baseball Library.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/ (October 14, 2002).

Sketch by Ann H. Shurgin

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Mack, Connie

Connie Mack (Cornelius McGillicuddy), 1862–1956, American baseball player and manager, b. East Brookfield, Mass. He was a star catcher for the Washington Senators (1886–89) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1891–94). After gaining managerial experience with the Pittsburgh (1891–96) and the Milwaukee (1897–1900) clubs, Mack became (1901–50) manager, and ultimately chief owner, of the Philadelphia Athletics of the newly organized American League. Under his guidance the Athletics won nine pennants and five World Series, and he skippered his teams to more wins (3,731) than any other manager. In 1937 he was named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. After 1937 he met with repeated illnesses, and increasing managerial responsibilities were given to his son, Earle Mack. Connie Mack continued as president of the Athletics until 1954, when the team was moved to Kansas City.

See his autobiography (1950); biography by N. L. Macht (2 vol., 2007–).

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