Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Connie Mack always seemed to be dressed in black. His three­-piece business suit, complete with necktie, detach­able collar and derby, gave him the appearance of a Philadel­phia funeral director rather than baseball manager. But for the ten years he had guided the hometown Athletics, Mack took his job very seriously. To be sure, on this sunny Sep­tember morning in 1911, the game of baseball had to be taken extremely seriously. Game number six of the World Series was about to be played.

Although the Philadelphia Athletics led the series three games to two over the Na­tional League’s pennant win­ners, the New York Giants – and were one victory away from a World Championship – Connie Mack found little cause for celebra­tion. He never did like John McGraw, the feisty Irishman who managed the Giants. In 1901, when Mack came to Philadelphia to establish the Athletics as an American League franchise, McGraw belittled his efforts claiming, “The athletics are going to be the White Elephants of the American League.” Out of spite, Mack adopted an ele­phant as the team’s mascot, attaching a little elephant on the left breast pocket of the team’s uniforms. More disturb­ing for Mack was that he had already lost the 1905 World Series to McGraw’s Giants in five games. He still had night­mares about the 27 scoreless innings that Giants’ ace Christy Mathewson pitched against his A’s and he vowed to prevent a repeat perform­ance in 1911.

For John McGraw, on the other hand, prospects looked good. By game six Mack had already exhausted his pitching staff. Eddie Plank, the As brilliant left-hander, had al­ready been beaten. Jack Coombs, Mack’s second best pitcher, was injured. Chief Bender had only one day’s rest. If the Giants could take advantage of these circum­stances and win the sixth game, they would be able to pitch Mathewson for the sev­enth and deciding game of the series. Mack knew this and pulled the unexpected: he sent Chief Bender to the mound. The battle of wits had begun.

Knowing that Bender had only one day’s rest, McGraw thought that the Philadelphia pitcher would tire easily. He ordered the Giants to wait out Bender, making him throw as many pitches as possible. Strategist that he was, Mack anticipated McGraw’s instruc­tions and ordered Bender to lay the first and many of the second pitches right down the heart of the plate, knowing that the Giants would take those pitches and, by doing so, give a one or two strike advantage to his own pitcher on each hitter. Bender exe­cuted this strategy with great success.

By the fifth inning, with the Giants losing, McGraw changed his strategy and in­structed his players to hit away. Mack countered by ordering Bender to pitch around the corners of the plate, allowing the giants to swing at pitches that were barely in the strike zone. Ben­der again executed this strat­egy successfully and ended by pitching a four-hitter, giving the Ms their second World Championship in as many years. When asked to com­ment on the series, Mack de­livered one of the most memorable understatements of all time: “Pitching is 90 percent of baseball!”

Baseball historians consider Connie Mack the paragon of managers. His knowledge of the game, professional disposi­tion and ability to manage players captured the attention of the baseball world at a time when the game was riddled with scandal, intemperance and rowdyism. He won nine pennants, five World Series and built two championship dynasties during his fifty years as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. But the career of the legendary “Mr. Baseball” was not a string of successes; the truth is that Connie Mack managed only two kinds of teams during his half-century in Philadelphia: unbeatable and lousy. His nine pennants were balanced with 17 last place finishes. In fact, Mack’s 3,776 victories as a manager were exceeded only by the 4,025 defeats he suffered – still a record for most losses by a single manager. And his care­ful nurturing of two championship dynasties was only matched by his ruthless skill of dismantling two of the greatest teams of all time, in 1915 and again in 1933. Not only was Connie Mack Philadelphia’s “Mr. Baseball,” but he was also one of the most controversial figures ever to be associated with the game.

Connie Mack’s professional baseball career began at a critical period in the develop­ment of the game. Born De­cember 23, 1862, at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, Cornelius McGillicuddy was the son of Irish immigrants. He worked in a shoe factory and played baseball for the local team until 1886 when at age 24 he entered professional baseball as a catcher. Changing his name to Connie Mack, he began his career at a time when professional ballplayers were considered to be even less prestigious than vaude­ville actors. Previously, the game had been regarded strictly as a form of exercise for young men. The pitcher threw underhanded from 45 feet away, the batter requested either a low or high ball and the only player on the field who wore a glove was the catcher. However, with the introduction of a payment system in the late 1860s and the establishment of the Na­tional League in the 1870s, this “professionalization” of base­ball was, in the public’s eyes, “degrading to our great na­tional game, making it a busi­ness.” Detractors believed the owners of the professional clubs were the “real culprits,” and those who played baseball for money were considered accomplices in a “great con­spiracy” that would “eventu­ally destroy the game.”

As a player, Connie Mack can hardly be accused of de­stroying baseball, rather, he embodied the more colorful aspects of the game. He was never a great hitter, compiling an average of .249 and 5 home runs during his eleven year playing career, but he was known for his excellent defen­sive skill, knowledge of the game and his winning, albeit humorous, disposition. Being a catcher, Mack was known to “tip the bat” or steal pitches from the batter. Often he would chatter at an opposing hitter in order to break his concentration or call for quick pitches while pretending to fix his equipment. It is question­able, however, if Mack resorted to these tactics in order to win ball games or simply to sur­vive, being the scrawny 6’1″, 160 pound catcher he was. Mack’s greatest contribution to baseball, however, came not as a player but as a manager.

As a manager, Connie Mack sought to bring integrity to the game of professional baseball and to attract wider public interest. In no small way can he be credited with transform­ing the sport into the national pastime it is today. He began his managerial career in 1896 as a player/manager for Pitts­burgh in the National League and had quickly fallen into controversy with the owner­ship over the administration of the ball club. In 1899, a dis­gruntled Mack left Pittsburgh to help establish a new league on the condition that he be given absolute freedom in running his own team. To­gether with two enterprising businessmen, Ben Johnson and Charles Comisky, Connie Mack organized the Western League and managed his own franchise in Milwaukee, Wis­consin. One year later the Western League would become the American League and enter professional baseball as the rival to the National League. The timing of this venture could not have been better. By 1900, the National League suffered as teams were losing money at the gate and owners had divided into two warring camps over the issues of players’ salaries and other administrative expenditures. For its economic survival, the National League was forced to drop four teams from its orga­nization, teams that were quickly assumed by the new American League. To Connie Mack went the Philadelphia franchise.

Almost from the moment he set foot in Philadelphia, Mack created controversy. He frequently said that the purpose of the American League was “to protect the players,” unlike the National League which sought to “protect the magnates,” earning him the wrath of the league’s owners, as well as the acerbic remark by John McGraw. But Mack was quick to support his words with action and in his first full year as the Athletics manager, he offered sizable pay increases to attract some of the stars of the National League to his team. He caused even more controversy when his greatest catches came from the National League’s local team, the Philadelphia Phil­lies. Not only did Mack land a pitching staff for his athletics by signing former Phillies Chick Fraser, Bill Bernhard and Wiley Piatt, but he cap­tured a real prize in the defec­tion of the Phil’s second baseman Nap Lajoie. When Phillies president John Rogers discovered Mack’s conspiracy, he obtained injunctions against his former players, forcing them to move onto other teams after the 1901 season. For two years after­wards, Fraser, Bernhard, Piatt and Lajoie were unable to play when their teams appeared in Philadelphia. This setback, however, was only temporary for the aspiring manager. He soon learned to attract players from other arenas.

Part of Mack’s success was due to an “enlightened intui­tion.” To be certain, baseball is a thinking man’s game; how­ever, there is something to be said for the anticipation of trends in the sport, whether it be in a player’s style or an administrative policy. Mack possessed both of these skills. While other managers scouted the sandlots for prospective talent, Mack was the first to use college ball as a proving grounds for the pros. In fact, he found three of the game’s all-time pitchers in the college ranks: Plank from Gettysburg College, Bender from the Car­lisle Institute and Coombs from Colby College. Half of what would later be known as Mack’s “$100,000 infield” would come from Columbia University in Eddie Collins and from Holy Cross in Jack Barry.

Whether his tactics were considered shrewd or conspir­atorial, there was no denying that Mack was a baseball ge­nius who commanded the respect of his players. By 1913, articles were being written about his patience, decorum and the gentlemanly behavior of his players. He gave lectures extolling the virtues of clean living and total abstinence, and rarely did he display an­ger. Mack even dressed the part of a gentleman. He de­cided that as long as he was no longer playing the game there was no need to wear a baseball uniform and so he always wore a business suit, keeping the jacket on during the early spring and removing it only in the most intense heat of the summer. Although the shirt­sleeves were occasionally rolled to the elbow, he still wore a necktie, a detachable collar and a derby or straw skimmer. Rarely did Mr. Base­ball appear on the playing field, rather he directed the game from the dugout, wag­ging his trademark scorecard to adjust his outfield. But it would be misleading to claim that Mack did it all by himself. His genius came from the ability he had to harness the aggressive – and almost primitive – instincts of his players and to shape them into a productive team. Mack’s earliest teams, the Philadel­phia Athletics of 1901-1914, testify to his abilities to en­courage the most from his players.

The players who composed those early teams were some of the most incorrigible, foul­mouthed individuals in profes­sional baseball. Six of their members were called in by the Internal Revenue Service in 1914 for failing to report their World Series bonuses. Five others were accused of breach­ing their contracts by engaging in salary negotiations with another league while still on the Athletics’ payroll. One was even suspected of throwing a World Series. Among the infamous were “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and George “Rube” Waddell.

Jackson came from a South Carolina mill town. Along with his six brothers, he worked in the mill and played ball for the town’s team. At age 19, he was hired to play for a semi-professional club in Greenville, South Carolina. When he arrived in Philadel­phia in 1908 he had already acquired the moniker “Shoe­less” for having played one game in his stocking feet, the result of poorly-fitting new spikes. During his first week in Philadelphia, Jackson missed his family so much that he hopped a train to Green­ville without Mack’s permis­sion. When Mack discovered the young outfielder missing he ordered one of his coaches to “Go down to Greenville and get this fellow’s brothers and sisters and whole family to come with you if necessary, but bring him back!” Later that season, Jackson – on his way to the ballpark for a game – was “seized,” as he put it, with a “gripping desire to go to the theater.” Letting his desire get the best of him, he forfeited the game to spend the after­noon at a burlesque house.

Taken by his great hitting ability, Connie Mack stayed with Jackson, even though he was disheartened by his incor­rigible behavior. Playing the role of a mentor, Mack offered to pay for a tutor to help the illiterate Jackson learn to read and write. Jackson stubbornly refused the help. Unfortu­nately for Shoeless Joe, the fans, aware of his illiteracy, took every opportunity to tease him about it. During one game at Detroit, Jackson was standing on third base after hitting a triple and a raucous fan jeered at him. “Hey Jack­son, can you spell ‘cat’?” As the crowd laughed, Jackson glared at the offending specta­tor, spit out a stream of to­bacco juice and retorted, “Hey mister, can you spell ‘shit’?”

Jackson would become the greatest natural hitter in the history of baseball. Unfortu­nately, he would earn that reputation in an abbreviated career that ended in disgrace. After leaving Philadelphia in 1911, Shoeless Joe played for the Cleveland Indians and later for the Chicago White Sox. In 1919, he was accused of throwing the World ‘Series, along with seven of his Chi­cago teammates, in a conspir­acy that has gone down in history as the Black Sox Scan­dal. By the age of 31 Connie Mack’s one-time prospect had been banished forever from the game of baseball.

George Waddell was an­other of Mack’s eccentric players. Mack had heard of Waddell, a young left-hander who was playing semi-pro ball in Pennsylvania, as early as 1899. He was a very attractive prospect, being able to throw a burning fastball and a sharply breaking curve, and was said to have more natural throwing ability than any pitcher in the Keystone State at the time. Despite rumors of Waddell’s intemperance and promiscuity, Mack offered the southpaw a job by telegramming him daily from Milwaukee for two weeks. Finally, Waddell agreed to play for Mack on the condi­tion that the enterprising man­ager pay for his debts and rescue his belongings from a pawnshop. Mack agreed to these conditions but also laid down some rules of his own. Waddell would have to report daily to a guardian hired by Mack who would be sure that the young pitcher’s wife re­ceived half of his $2,400 salary.

Waddell came to the Ath­letics in 1902 and earned more than 20 victories during each of the following four years. Although the A’s slipped from second to fifth place in 1904, Waddell was one of the team’s more consistent players, post­ing a 26-11 record in a season he began with 10 consecutive victories. In 1907, the left­-hander won 19 games and led the American League in strike­outs for the sixth year in a row. During his five years in Phila­delphia, George Waddell pro­vided the Athletics with two pennants, more than 150 victo­ries and carved a name for himself in the annals of base­ball folklore.

The uninhibited Waddell fit the part of a classic country yokel. His walk, a “typical country gait with an accompa­nying swaying of the shoul­ders,” won over Philadelphia’s fans. When he walked to the pitchers mound they would yell “Hey, Rube!” and he would bow from the waist. Once he called all three of his outfielders and all of the in­fielders, except the first base­man, and made them stand by the pitcher’s mound while he struck out the side. On an­other occasion, while pitching against the St. Louis Browns, Waddell stormed into the stand and assaulted a gambler who had been jeering at him, returned to the field to strike out a batter and then hit the double that gave him the vic­tory! Perhaps his most remark­able feat, though, was pitching both ends of a double-header, winning the first game in 14 innings and then returning to pitch another complete 9 inning game. Rube was so thrilled with this achievement that he turned cartwheels all the way to the clubhouse.

Years after he had retired from the game, Rube Waddell was accused of throwing the 1905 World Series by feigning an injury and refusing to pitch even one game of that contest. The Athletics, favored in the Series because of their strong pitching corps of Waddell, Plank and Bender, lost the championship in five games without their pitching ace. When he died in 1914, The Literary Digest delivered what was perhaps the most fitting eulogy for Rube Waddell. “He was one of those characters, at once the most enviable and the saddest in the world, who are too great at heart for the civilization in which they live.”

Not all of Connie Mack’s ballplayers were as colorful as Waddell or as incorrigible as Jackson, but they did possess some of the greatest talent in the game. Without their abil­ity, it is doubtful that Mack could have built his two cham­pionship dynasties of 1910-1914 and 1929-1932; ironically, it is questionable if he would have dismantled them had it not been for their remarkable skill.

The first dynasty was built around the famed “$100,000 infield,” a term that captured the financial value of the four infielders on the team. Two of the members of that infield became Hall-of-Famers: sec­ond baseman Eddie Collins and third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker. Collins played more seasons in the majors than any other player in the twentieth century. Eight of those seasons were spent in an Athletics’ uniform. When he debuted with the A’s in 1906, the 19 year old Collins used the pseudonym of “Sul­livan” because he had a year to complete at Columbia Univer­sity. His aggressive, confident manner earned him the de­scription “cocky” and to be sure, Collins had much to be cocky about. For ten seasons he batted more than .340. A tremendous baserunner, he Jed the American League in stolen bases four times, his highest season totaling 81 in 1910. More importantly, Collins had a way of getting on base. He served as Mack’s number two hitter in the line-up dur­ing his years in Philadelphia and drew 60 to 199 walks a year, giving him an exceptional on-base percentage of .400 in his eight seasons with the A’s. While Collins provided speed on the basepaths and contact hitting, his fellow Hall-of­Famer, Frank Baker, lent his power to the A’s line-up.

The premier power hitter of the so-called “Dead-Ball Era” – when the baseball was pur­posely weighted in order to discourage home run hitting­Frank Baker earned the nick­name “Home Run” for his two dramatic blasts in the 1911 World Series. He led the American League in homers for four consecutive seasons, from 1911 through 1914. Swinging a 52 ounce bat ­twenty ounces heavier than most bats now used in the major leagues – Baker hit 93 home runs in his 13 year ca­reer. He also led the American League in runs batted in 19U with 133, and in 1913 with 126 and was still able to compile a .307 career average, unusual for a hitter who swings for the fences.

The other two members of that famous $100,000 infield were shortstop Jack Barry and first baseman Stuffy McInnis, both considered to be among the best defensive players, in their respective positions, of the era. Barry was adept at turning the double play while McInnis has been credited as the inventor of the “knee reach” – the first player to do a full, ground level split in reaching for a throw.

The pitching for that cham­pionship dynasty was domi­nated by Eddie Plank and Charles Albert “Chief” Bender. Plank, who held the dubious honor of having two nick­names with the A’s – “Gettysburg Eddie” (for his hometown) and “Fidgety One” (because of his delaying tactics on the mound) – pitched the team to 6 pennants. Joining the Athletics in 1901 directly from college, Plank won 17 games in his rookie year and went on to win 20 or more during each of the next four seasons. Unfortunately, Get­tysburg Eddie had hard luck in World Series competition, posting a 2-5 record during his years in Philadelphia. Instead, it was Chief Bender who proved to be the ace in cham­pionship competition. Bender, a member of the Chippewa tribe, compiled 18 victories in his first year of professional baseball and in 1910, his most productive year with the A’s, he posted a 23-5 record and earned the victory in the de­ciding game of the 1910 World Series, a performance he man­aged to repeat in the 1911 Championship Series. Both are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With such talent Connie Mack was able to capture the American League pennant four times in five seasons and win the World Series three times in four seasons (1910, 1911 and again in 1913). De­spite their success, the Phila­delphia Athletics failed to attract crowds. In fact, the club failed to turn a profit in 1914, despite winning its fourth pennant. Instead, Mack found himself with a $60,000 deficit. He believed that the Philadel­phia fans had become too complacent with winning and that the players he had hand picked and with great care over the years were no longer a team but rather a collection of talented individuals. Many were attracted by the prospect of selling their services to a newly-formed federal league where they could earn more money. Instead of devoting themselves to the success of the team, they worried about their salaries, the type of player Mack disdained, even though he had used the same tactics to attract National League players to the newly formed American League in 1901. The more seasoned man­ager had come to realize, how­ever, that without team unity the Athletics would eventually collapse. And so in 1915 Mack began to break up his champi­onship dynasty, which ironi­cally, he saw as a “challenge” and not as a regret. “I am broke financially but full of ambition. It is like starting all over again for me and I love baseball and I love to build up teams. I have done it once and I will do it again.”

Player-by-player Mack began the break-up. Shortly after the World Series defeat in 1914, Mr. Baseball asked waiv­ers on Bender, Plank and Coombs. Before the next sea­son, he sold Eddie Collins to the Chicago White Sox for $50,000. Home Run Baker, aware of his manager’s plans and not wanting to play on a decimated team, sat out the 1915 season in a salary dispute with Mack and was sold the following season to the New York Yankees. McInnis and Barry, the only remaining members of value, were sold to the Red Sox during the 1915 regular season. After the dis­bandment, Mack’s athletics finished last for seven consec­utive years. During their worst season in 1916 the team dropped 117 games. In fact, the 1916 Athletics are widely regarded as the worst team ever to have played the game. It was not until 1922 that the A’s began to emerge from the cellar of the American League.

Despite the poor perform­ance of these teams, it was during this period that Mack became a symbol of the endur­ing values of the national pastime. He preserved the integrity of the game rather than succumbing to the gam­bling scandals that were plagu­ing baseball, and he concentrated on team commit­ment rather than catering to individual stars. His spirit reflected a genuine love for the game that could only endear the youngsters of the city to him and his hapless Athletics.

Baseball historians do not always acknowledge these intangible values, however, and many still wonder what might have happened if Mack had kept his dynasty together and added fresh talent. For example, Mack had the oppor­tunity as early as 1913 to pur­chase a young rookie from Baltimore, George Herman Ruth, more affectionately known as the “Babe.” Jack Dunn, manager and part owner of the Orioles, show­cased Ruth in an impressive pitching performance against the A’s in a regular season game that year and later of­fered to sell the rookie to the Athletics for a mere $25,000. One can’t help but wonder how many of Babe Ruth’s 714 career home runs Mack could have purchased for the A’s. Mack showed very little inter­est and, of course, Ruth went on to become the shining star of the New York Yankees. Some historians believe that Mack was planning to disman­tle his own team by 1913, even though the dismantling did not occur for another two seasons. Whatever the case might have been, Connie Mack was an enterprising businessman as well as base­ball genius. And the reality in 1915 was that he crashed and attendance slipped precari­ously. He did, perhaps, the only logical thing a business­man could do: sell his com­modity while it still retained value and wait for the higher demand on the mark.et before producing another winner.

Although Mr. Baseball ran a tight payroll – having nothing against selling teams for top price of fielding much cheaper ones – he was capable of offer­ing top dollar for a prospect if the player, in his estimation, was worth it. In the 1920s, Mack rebuilt the Athletics by showing good judgement m purchasing players. He ac­quired pitcher Robert “Lefty” Grove from Baltimore for the record sum of $100,600, right­-hander George Earnshaw for $90,000 and signed slugging first baseman Jimmy Foxx for $50,000. Mack combined the talent of these youngsters with some of the most established veterans of the game. He lured Ty Cobb, the legendary base stealer and the greatest hitter ever to play the game, from the Detroit Tigers, as well as Tris Speaker, the greatest cen­terfielder of his day, from Washington. The result was a second Athletics’ dynasty that produced three American League pennants and two world championships.

The Philadelphia Athletics of 1927-1932 were among the greatest teams ever to have played the game. Cobb, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1927 at age 41, hit .357 and stole 22 bases; in 1928, his last season in professional baseball, he hit .323 for the A’s. Lefty Grove, the ace of those championship teams, is generally considered to be the greatest left-hander in American League history. Although he did not reach the majors until he was 25, Grove still achieved the exceptional .300 victory plateau, posting seven 20 (or more) victory seasons in his years with the A’s. His most impressive sea­son came in 1931 when he earned a 31-4 record. After one of those four losses, Grove was so upset that he ripped up his uniform and destroyed four lockers; the loss was a 1-0 fluke that snapped his 16-game winning streak. Perhaps the only other player who ap­peared more competitive on those championship teams was Grove’s catcher, Mickey Cochrane. An articulate, intel­ligent player, Cochrane’s spirit – as well as his .346 bat­ting average – is credited with sparking the A’s to their three pennants in 1929, 1930 and 1931. None of these pennants would have been possible without the hitting combina­tion of Foxx and Simmons.

Although the New York Yankees duo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig has been deserv­edly called the best slugging combination in baseball his­tory, the Athletics’ team of Al Simmons and Jimmy Foxx presented the “Bronx Bombers” with formidable competition. Foxx, the legend­ary “Double X,” began his career with the A’s in 1925 at the age of seventeen and by 1929 had become the Ms regu­lar first baseman and an intim­idating power hitter. Al Simmons, the other half of that combination, is said to have “worked himself into a homicidal rage against pitchers before going to bat” and, per­haps for this reason alone, he has been considered one of the deadliest hitters with men on base. His unorthodox style earned him the name “Bucket­foot Al.” The duo’s statistics were impressive. In 1929, Simmons beat the Ruth­-Gehrig team for the American League RBI title and Foxx did the same in 1932 and 1933. Simmons won the League’s batting title in 1930 with a .381 average and again in 1931 with a .390 average. Foxx succeeded Simmons in 1933 by winning the batting title as well as the League’s Most Valuable Player title. Beginning in 1929 Foxx hit 30 or more home runs for 12 successive seasons and, in 1932, just missed tying Ruth’s mark of 60 home runs in a season when a rained out game erased two of the homers he had hit.

The creation of this star­-studded team would put to rest those detractors of Connie Mack, who by 1929 began to question his managerial ability. After all, the A’s had not won a pennant since 1914 and many Philadelphians suspected that the A’s skipper had lost his ability to judge talent and to create a team of winners. The 1929 season would not only silence the critics but establish Connie Mack as Mr. Baseball for years to come.

Mack’s Athletics were sim­ply unbeatable during the 1929 season. Going into the last week of regular season play, the A’s held a commanding 10 game lead over the second place Yankees. As it was just as obvious that the Chicago Cubs would win their National League’s pennant, Mack de­cided to plan his strategy for the World Series with a week remaining in the schedule. He told his veteran pitcher, Howard Ehmke, that he was going to pitch the first game of the World Series and that he should stay behind in Phila­delphia, while the team made its last road trip, to scout the Cubs when they came into town to play the Phillies.

When Ehmke’s name was announced as the starting pitcher on the opening day of the Series, Philadelphia’s fans reacted with disbelief. Many thought that Mack had gone mad. The logical starter was Lefty Grove, the team’s ace and not an aging pitcher who had won only sev,en games all season. Mack’s strategy pre­vailed. Ehmke held the Cubs scoreless until the ninth inn­ing, when a run scored on a two-base error. But Foxx had hit a home run in the seventh inning and the A’s added two more runs in the ninth for a 3-1 win. Emke had established a new World Series record by striking out 13 hitters, and his appearance allowed Mack to pitch Grove twice in the Series with a three day rest between starts. The Athletics went on to win the 1929 series in five games, giving Mack his fourth world championship. Another championship and two more pennants would follow but they would be the last for Connie Mack.

In 1932, Mack, who claimed that he could tell when a great team was done for, decided to break up his second champi­onship dynasty. Undoubtedly, he was also influenced by the nation’s economic plight. With the Great Depression growing worse, Mack – who owned 50 percent of the team – could not afford to pay his star players. The A’s were carrying the largest payroll in baseball and, despite the success of the team, attendance was actually down. Banks began to call in their loans and with little fi­nancial relief in sight Mack, once again, began to sell off his team. Still, Mr. Baseball believed that he could do it again, that he could rebuild another championship dy­nasty. “Opportunity knocks at every man’s door. Don’t let any skeptic tell you it doesn’t come to everyone and here in America the opportunities are greater than ever before if one has the good sense to seize them.”

Connie Mack attempted to seize those opportunities dur­ing the last eighteen years of his career, but they seemed to allude him time and again. In 1934, after he had toured Japan with a team of fourteen Ameri­can players, Mack – who was continually impressed with the aging Babe Ruth’s popularity on the trip – toyed with the idea of making the Yankee idol his manager and retiring to the front office. Unfortunately for Mack, Ruth refused; he only wanted manage one team and that was the Yankees. Mack also tried to capitalize on the intelligence of his players by employing them as assistant coaches, regularly seeking their advice. But by the late 1940s even this strategy soured as rumors began to spread that Mack couldn’t even remember his own player’s names and that Al Simmons was actually running the team from the third base coaching box. Still, Mr. Baseball continued, un­daunted by the critics or his own lack of success.

If nothing else, the Ath­letics teams of the 1930s and 1940s could be described as a “gentle comedy,” a term coined by novelist John Updike who followed the A’s as a child. Outfielders ran into walls – or worse, into each other – in pursuit of a fly ball; quality players were constantly traded away for unknowns; and the team continued to lose and nobody seemed to mind. Through it all, Connie Mack retained a sense of humor. On one occasion when catcher Mickey Cochrane was thrown out on a ground ball that might have been an infield hit, Mack politely inquired, “What’s the matter Mickey, a little tired today?” On another occasion Mack wryly com­mented on the abilities of infielder Wally Moses. “He has a weakness on ground balls, but that’s a strong weakness.”

Whether it was his un­abashed self-righteousness or a genuine concern for the welfare of his players, Mack refused to adopt the posture of the more common tobacco­-chewing manager who ridi­culed his players at every turn. Instead, Mr. Baseball sounded more like a school teacher when he spoke about his phi­losophy of managing. “I have always tried to be a father to my players – one to whom they could come with their problems and receive sympa­thetic attention. I have never indulged in the habit of swear­ing at my boys when some­thing went wrong, nor have I done anything to humiliate a player who had an off day. Since most of us have good days and bad, we cannot al­ways live up to our fullest abilities each day.” It was a philosophy that earned for Mack the admiration of his players but, unfortunately, it did not necessarily win ball games. And to be sure, the performance of the Athletics of the 1940s vacillated from medi­ocre to poor. The only reprieve from those dismal seasons came during the last weeks of the season; however, injuries and poor relief pitching cost the A’s first place and they fell to fourth, finishing the season 12 games behind the Cleveland Indians.

Before the 1950 season, the 87-year-old Mack said that his “highest ambition is to do it again before I retire, for I believe we have a team of stars in the making; we are building up another championship team.” But once again, Mack’s A’s finished last. Finally, on October 18, 1950, Connie Mack retired from professional base­ball. His parting words were sad. “I’m not quitting because I’m getting too old, I’m quit­ting because I think people want me to.” Sadly enough, Mr. Baseball was right. For several years contention for the ownership of the team had been building within the Mack family. While the Athletics had been a family business since the early 1930s – control and ownership of the team had been divided between Mack and his three sons Roy, Earle and Connie Jr., – the younger generation’s desire to imple­ment their own plans led to tensions between them and their father. Finally, in 1950 Mack issued an ultimatum to his sons buy him out or sell out to him. By choosing the former course, Mack’s own children ended his baseball career.

Today, the Athletics per­form their magic in Oakland, California. After the 1954 sea­son they left Philadelphia for Kansas City, eventually relo­cating on the West Coast. Connie Mack died two years later. The stadium which once bore his name, at Twenty-First and Lehigh streets, was de­molished in 1976 and now the only professional basebail team in town plays in South Philadelphia’s Veterans Sta­dium. In his memory, the Phillies erected a statue of Connie Mack in front of their stadium in 1971. Many of the old-timers who rooted for the Athletics still wonder if Mr. Baseball would find it ironic to have his statue standing in front of the same National League club he sought to de­plete when he first arrived in the City of Brotherly Love back in 1901. But nothing could be too ironic for Connie Mack.


For Further Reading

Allen, Lee. The American League Story. New York: Hill and Wang, 1962

James, Bill. The Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Ballatine Books, Inc., 1989.

Mack, Connie. An Autobiogra­phy. New York: Macmillan, 1954.

National Baseball Hall of Fame. The National Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooperstown, N. Y: Na­tional Baseball Hall of Fame, 1975.

Rosenburg, John M. The Story of Baseball. New York: Random House, 1962.

Wallop, Douglass. Baseball: An Informal History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1969.


The editor wishes to thank Patri­cia Kelly of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York, for her gracious assistance in providing numerous photographs for this article.


William C. Kashatus III, Philadel­phia, is a regular contributor to this magazine, specializing in colonial and early Quaker history. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Earlham College and his master of arts degree in 1984 from Brown University. A teacher at Episcopal Academy, he has been employed by the National Park Service at Independence National Historical Park and at Valley Forge National Historical Park. His articles have appeared in numerous publications.