Connie Mack (baseball)
Born: December 22, 1862|
East Brookfield, Massachusetts
Died: February 8, 1956 (aged 93)|
|Batted: Right||Threw: Left|
|September 11, 1886 for the Washington Nationals|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 29, 1896 for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Runs batted in||265|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Election Method||Veterans Committee|
Cornelius McGillicuddy, Sr. (December 22, 1862 – February 8, 1956), better known as Connie Mack, was an American professional baseball player, manager, and team owner. The longest-serving manager in Major League Baseball history, he holds records for wins (3,731), losses (3,948), and games managed (7,755), with his victory total being almost 1,000 more than any other manager.
Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics for the club's first 50 seasons of play, starting in 1901, before retiring at age 87 following the 1950 season, and was at least part-owner from 1901 to 1954. He was the first manager to win the World Series three times, and is the only manager to win consecutive Series on separate occasions (1910–11, 1929–30); his five Series titles remain the third most by any manager, and his nine American League pennants rank second in league history. However, constant financial struggles forced repeated rebuilding of the roster, and Mack's teams also finished in last place 17 times. Mack was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
After serving as captain of the East Brookfield town team, he played on minor league teams in the Connecticut cities of Meriden and Hartford before signing with the Washington (DC) team of the National League (variously called the Statesmen, Nationals or Senators) in 1886. In the winter of 1889, he jumped to the Buffalo team of the new Players League, the Bisons, investing his entire life savings of $500 in shares in that club. But the Players League went out of business after only a year, and Mack lost his job and his whole investment. In December 1890 Mack signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League and remained with them for the rest of his career as a full-time player.
As a player, Mack was "a light-hitting catcher with a reputation as a smart player, but didn't do anything particularly well as a player."
Mack was one of the first catchers to move up to play directly behind the plate instead of back in front of the backstop. He developed skills such as blocking the plate or faking the sound of a foul tip (he was probably responsible for the 1891 rule change requiring that a batter must have two strikes against him in order to be called out if the catcher caught a foul tip). He would also needle batters to distract them. According to Wilbert Robinson, "Mack never was mean ... [but] if you had any soft spot, Connie would find it. He could do and say things that got more under your skin than the cuss words used by other catchers." Another skill was tipping bats to throw off a player's swing. ("Tipping" a bat is to brush it with the catcher's mitt as the batter swings, either delaying the swing by a fraction of a second or putting it off course, so that the batter misses the ball or doesn't hit it solidly. If the umpire is aware that a bat has been tipped, whether intentionally or unintentionally, he calls catcher's interference.) Mack never denied such tricks:
Farmer Weaver was a catcher-outfielder for Louisville. I tipped his bat several times when he had two strikes on him one year, and each time the umpire called him out. He got even, though. One time there were two strikes on him and he swung as the pitch was coming in. But he didn't swing at the ball. He swung right at my wrists. Sometimes I think I can still feel the pain. I'll tell you I didn't tip his bat again. No, sir, not until the last game of the season and Weaver was at bat for the last time. When he had two strikes, I tipped his bat again and got away with it.
Mack's last three seasons in the National League were as a player-manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1894 to 1896, with a 149–134 (.527) record. After the 1896 season, he retired as a full-time player and accepted a deal from Henry Killilea to act as manager and occasional backup catcher for the minor league Milwaukee Brewers. He agreed to a salary of $3,000 and 25% of the club. He managed the Brewers for four seasons from 1897 to 1900, their best year coming in 1900, when they finished second. It was in Milwaukee that he first signed pitcher Rube Waddell, who would follow him to the big leagues.
In 1901 he became manager, treasurer and part owner of the new American League's Philadelphia Athletics. He managed the Athletics through the 1950 season, compiling a record of 3,582–3,814 (.484) when he retired at 87. Mack won nine pennants and appeared in eight World Series, winning five.
Mack's 50-year tenure as Athletics manager is the most ever for a coach or manager with the same team in North American professional sports, and has never been seriously threatened. Eddie Robinson, college football coach for Grambling State for 57 seasons, from 1941 (when it was the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute) to 1997, surpassed Mack in longevity. Joe Paterno, with 62 seasons as a college football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions also surpassed Mack, although Paterno was head coach in only 46 of those years.
He was widely praised in the newspapers for his intelligent and innovative managing, which earned him the nickname "the Tall Tactician". He valued intelligence and "baseball smarts", always looking for educated players. (He traded away Shoeless Joe Jackson despite his talent because of his bad attitude and unintelligent play.) "Better than any other manager, Mack understood and promoted intelligence as an element of excellence." He wanted men who were self-directed, self-disciplined and self-motivated; his ideal player was Eddie Collins.
"Mack looked for seven things in a young player: physical ability, intelligence, courage, disposition, will power, general alertness and personal habits."
As a result of Mack's strive to have his players become better people as well as baseball players, he created a Code of Conduct following the 1916 season
- I will always play the game to the best of my ability.
- I will always play to win, but if I lose, I will not look for an excuse to detract from my opponent's victory.
- I will never take an unfair advantage in order to win.
- I will always abide by the rules of the game—on the diamond as well as in my daily life.
- I will always conduct myself as a true sportsman—on and off the playing field.
- I will always strive for the good of the entire team rather than for my own glory.
- I will never gloat in victory or pity myself in defeat.
- I will do my utmost to keep myself clean—physically, mentally, and morally.
- I will always judge a teammate or an opponent as an individual and never on the basis of race or religion.
He also looked for players with quiet and disciplined personal lives, having seen many players destroy themselves and their teams through heavy drinking in his playing days. Mack himself never drank; before the 1910 World Series he asked all his players to "take the pledge" not to drink during the Series. When Topsy Hartsel told Mack he needed a drink the night before the final game, Mack told him to do what he thought best, but in these circumstances "if it was me, I'd die before I took a drink."
In any event, his managerial style was not tyrannical but easygoing. He never imposed curfews or bed checks, and made the best of what he had; Rube Waddell was the best pitcher and biggest gate attraction of his first decade as A's manager, so he put up with his drinking and general unreliability for years until it began to bring the team down and the other players asked Mack to get rid of him.
Mack's strength as a manager was finding the best players, teaching them well and letting them play. "He did not believe that baseball revolved around managerial strategy." He was "one of the first managers to work on repositioning his fielders" during the game, often directing the outfielders to move left or right, play shallow or deep, by waving his rolled-up scorecard from the bench. After he became well known for doing this, he often passed his instructions to the fielders by way of other players, and simply waved his scorecard as a feint.
Baseball historian Bill James sums up Mack's managerial approach as follows: he favored a set lineup, did not generally platoon hitters; preferred young players to veterans and power hitters to those with high batting averages; did not often pinch-hit, use his bench players or sacrifice much (even so, the A's led the league in sacrifice bunts in 1909, 1911 and 1914); believed in "big-inning" offense rather than small ball; and very rarely issued an intentional walk.
Over the course of his career he had nine pennant-winning teams spanning three peak periods or "dynasties." His original team, with players like Rube Waddell, Ossee Schreckengost, and Eddie Plank, won the pennant in 1902 (when there was no World Series) and 1905, losing the 1905 World Series to the New York Giants (four games to one, all shutouts, with Christy Mathewson hurling three complete game shutouts for a record 27 scoreless innings in one World Series). During that season, Giant manager John McGraw said that Mack had "a big white elephant on his hands" with the Athletics. Mack defiantly adopted the white elephant as the team's logo, which the Athletics still use today.
As that first team aged, Mack acquired a core of young players to form his second great team, which featured Mack's famous "$100,000 infield" of Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker, Jack Barry and Stuffy McInnis. These Athletics, captained by catcher Ira Thomas, won the pennant in 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914, beating the Cubs in the World Series in 1910 and the Giants in 1911 and 1913, but losing in 1914 in four straight games to the "Miracle" Boston Braves, who had come from last place in late July to win the National League pennant by 6 1/2 games over the Giants.
That team was dispersed due to financial problems, from which Mack did not recover until the twenties, when he built his third great team. The 1927 Athletics featured several future Hall of Fame players including veterans Ty Cobb, Zack Wheat and Eddie Collins as well as young stars like Mickey Cochrane, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons and rookie Jimmie Foxx. That team won the pennant in 1929, 1930 and 1931, beating the Chicago Cubs in the 1929 World Series (when they came from 8–0 behind in Game 4, plating a Series record ten runs in the seventh inning and winning the game, 10–8, and then from two runs down in the bottom of the ninth in Game 5 for a walk-off Series win) and easily defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in 1930, who then turned around and beat them in seven games in 1931 led by the brilliant Pepper Martin.
That team was dispersed after 1932 when Mack ran into financial difficulty again. By 1934, the A's had fallen into the second division, and he would never win another pennant. The Athletics' record from 1935–46 was dismal, finishing in the basement of the AL every year except a 5th place finish in 1944. World War II brought further hardship due to personnel shortages, but the octogenarian Mack somehow got the team to three winning seasons in 1947–49 (including a fourth-place finish in 1948) before they sunk back into the basement in 1950.
In addition, as he entered his 80s, his mental state became increasingly questionable. Mack would make strange decisions (which his coaches and players usually overruled) and call out for players from decades earlier to pinch-hit. He spent most games asleep in the dugout, leaving his coaches to run the team most of the time.
According to outfielder Sam Chapman, "He could remember the old-timers, but he had a hard time remembering the names of the current players." Shortstop Eddie Joost said "He wasn't senile, but there were lapses." Despite growing speculation he would step down, Mack brushed it all off and stated simply that he would keep managing as long as he was physically able to.
According to Bill James, by the time he recovered again financially he was "old and out of touch with the game, so his career ends with eighteen years of miserable baseball." It was generally agreed that he stayed in the game too long, hurting his legacy. As he entered his 80s, he found himself unable to handle the post-World War II changes in baseball, including the growing commercialization of the game. His business style was no longer viable in post-WWII America due to various factors including the increased expense of running a team. For instance, he didn't even bother to implement modern features like installing a telephone line between the bullpen and dugout.
"Toward the end he was old and sick and saddened, a figure of forlorn dignity bewildered by the bickering around him as the baseball monument that he had built crumbled away."
At the time of his retirement, Mack himself stated:
"I'm not quitting because I'm getting old, I'm quitting because I think people want me to."
The American League's white knight, Charles Somers, provided the seed money to start the Athletics and several other American League teams. However, plans called for local interests to buy out Somers as soon as possible. To that end, Mack persuaded sporting goods manufacturer Ben Shibe, a minority owner of the rival Philadelphia Phillies, to buy a 50 percent stake in the team—an offer sweetened by Mack's promise that Shibe would have the exclusive right to make baseballs for the American League. In return, Mack was allowed to buy a 25 percent stake, and was named treasurer of the team. Two local sports writers, Frank Hough and Sam Jones, bought the remaining 25 percent, but their involvement was not mentioned in the incorporating papers; in fact, no agreement was put on paper until 1902. Mack and Shibe did business on a handshake.
In 1913, Hough and Jones sold their 25 percent to Mack, making him a full partner in the club with Shibe; Mack actually borrowed the money for the purchase from Shibe. Under their agreement, Mack had full control over baseball matters while Shibe handled the business side. When Shibe died in 1922, his sons Tom and John took over management of the business side, with Tom as team president and John as vice president. Tom died in 1936, and John resigned shortly thereafter (he died in 1937), leaving Mack as sole owner. However, he had been the franchise's number-one man since Ben Shibe's death. Such an arrangement is no longer possible in current times, as major-league rules do not allow a coach or manager to own any financial interest in a club.
Mack's great strength as an owner was his huge network of baseball friends, all of whom acted as scouts and "bird-dogs" for him, finding talented players and alerting Mack. "Mack was better at that game than anybody else in the world. People liked Mack, respected him, and trusted him. ... Mack answered every letter and listened patiently to every sales job, and ... he got players for that reason."
Mack saw baseball as a business, and recognized that economic necessity drove the game. He explained to his cousin, Art Dempsey, that "The best thing for a team financially is to be in the running and finish second. If you win, the players all expect raises." This was one reason he was constantly collecting players, signing almost anyone to a ten-day contract to assess his talent; he was looking ahead to future seasons when his veterans would either retire or hold out for bigger salaries than Mack could give them.
Unlike most baseball owners, Mack had almost no income apart from the A's, so he was often in financial difficulties. Money problems—the escalation of his best players' salaries (due both to their success and to competition from the new, well-financed Federal League), combined with a steep drop in attendance due to World War I—led to the gradual dispersal of his second championship team, the 1910–1914 team, who he sold, traded, or released over the years 1915–1917. The war hurt the team badly, leaving Mack without the resources to sign valuable players. His 1916 team, with a 36–117 record, is often considered the worst team in American League history, and its .235 winning percentage is still the lowest ever for a modern-era (since 1900) major league team. The team's 117 losses set a modern era record and at the time was the second most losses behind the Cleveland Spiders' 130 in 1899. As of 2012 that record has been topped only twice, with the 1962 New York Mets breaking that record with 120 losses in their inaugural season and the 2003 Detroit Tigers surpassing it with 119 although those teams played 162 game schedules, not 154 like the Athletics. All told, the A's finished dead last in the AL seven years in a row from 1915 to 1921, and would not reach .500 again until 1926. The rebuilt team won back-to-back championships in 1929–1930 over the Cubs and Cardinals, and then lost a rematch with the latter in 1931. As it turned out, these were the last postseason appearances for the A's not only in Philadelphia, but for another four decades.
With the onset of the Great Depression, Mack struggled financially again, and was forced to sell the best players from his second great championship team, such as Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx, to stay in business. Although Mack wanted to rebuild again and win more championships, he was never able to do so owing to a lack of funds. Mack celebrated his 70th birthday in 1932, and many began wondering if his best days were behind him. He stubbornly maintained total control over the day-to-day operations of the Athletics both as owner, de facto general manager and manager long after most teams had ceased this practice.
When Mack resigned as manager, he largely withdrew from active control of the team. Over the next five years, the team crumbled to the bottom of the American League, nearly going bankrupt. Although reduced to a figurehead, Mack continued to be treated with awe and reverence by players who considered him living history. His sons handled his correspondence by 1953 as he had become too frail by that point to do it himself.
As that year ended, the other American League owners met to voice their distaste at having to play road games in the dilapidated Shibe Park with its largely empty bleachers. They wanted the Athletics sold off to a new owner and the Yankees in particular lobbied for it to be Kansas City businessman Arnold Johnson, who had recently bought both Yankee Stadium as well as Blues Stadium in Kansas City, home to the Yankees' top farm team. Roy and Earle Mack did not want to move the team, but pressure from the Yankees and blowback from several bad business decisions finally moved their hand and they agreed to the sale. A final attempt to save the A's failed, and the 1954 A's attracted only 304,000 people. When the AL owners met in New York to discuss the sale, they unanimously voted yes despite Connie Mack's feeble pleadings. His doctor reported that the nonagenarian owner suffered a sudden sharp drop in blood pressure and almost expired upon learning that his team was gone. The Phillies took over Shibe Park and Mack was still chauffeured around to games by his caretaker. He attended the 1954 World Series and the occasional regular season match still, but in October 1955, he fell and suffered a hip fracture. Mack underwent surgery on October 5, missing the World Series that week for the first time ever. He remained wheelchair-bound after that point, celebrating his 93rd birthday in November. The end came at his daughter's house on the afternoon of February 8, 1956. According to his doctor, he'd been fine until the 7th when he "just started to fade away". Officially, it was announced that he died of "old age and complications from his hip surgery" Mack's funeral was held in his parish church, St. Bridge's, and he was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham Township just outside Philadelphia, with Commissioner Ford Frick, the AL and NL presidents, and all 16 MLB owners serving as pallbearers.
Mack was quiet, even-tempered, and gentlemanly, never using profanity. He was generally addressed as "Mr. Mack". He always called his players by their given names. Chief Bender, for instance, was "Albert" to Mack. Perhaps due to his great longevity in the game, there grew up around him a kind of saintly image; his long-time friends objected to the image of him as "the bloodless saint so often painted, a sanctimonious old Puritan patting babies". His friend Red Smith called him "tough and warm and wonderful, kind and stubborn and courtly and unreasonable and generous and calculating and naive and gentle and proud and humorous and demanding and unpredictable".
Beginning as far back as his first managing job in the nineteenth century, Mack drew criticism from the newspapers for not spending enough money. Some writers called him an outright miser, accusing him of getting rid of star players so he could "line his own pockets" with the money. However, his biographer Norman Macht strongly defends Mack on this question, contending that Mack's spending decisions were forced on him by his financial circumstances, and that nearly all the money he made went back to the team. Mack himself was upset by these allegations; when some writers accused him of deliberately losing the second game of the 1913 World Series in order to extend the series and make more money in ticket sales, he uncharacteristically wrote an angry letter to the Saturday Evening Post to deny it, saying "I consider playing for the gate receipts ... nothing short of dishonest." With the Athletics leading the Series three games to one, several New York writers predicted that the Athletics would deliberately lose Game Five in New York so that Mack would not have to refund the $50,000 in ticket sales for Game Six in Philadelphia. After reading this, Mack told his players that if they won Game Five he would give them the team's entire share of the Game Five gate receipts—about $34,000. The Athletics did win, and Mack gave out the money as promised.
Mack supported a large extended family and was generous to players in need, often finding jobs for former players. For instance, he kept Bender on the team payroll as a scout, minor league manager or coach from 1926 until Mack himself retired as owner-manager in 1950. Simmons was a coach for many years after his retirement as a player.
Mack lived through the entire era of racially segregated baseball (the early days of the game in his youth sometimes featured black players, but this ended by the 1890s and the major leagues remained white-only until Jackie Robinson broke down the color barrier in 1947), and even afterwards never displayed any serious interest in signing blacks. According to those who knew him, Mack was not a racist by the standards of his day and had no particular objection to a player's skin color if they performed well on the field. However, he did not want to cross the dictatorial commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis who represented a majority of MLB owners that opposed integrated baseball. Mack may have also thought that black players on the Athletics' roster would not go over well with the fans in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia stadium, originally called Shibe Park, was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953. Starting in 1909, it was home to the Athletics, and starting 1938, it was also home to the Phillies, then from 1955 to 1970 was home to the Phillies alone, after the Athletics moved to Kansas City.
In addition to his Hall of Fame election in 1937, in 2008, Connie Mack was the first person inducted into the New York City–based Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame. He is mentioned in the poem Line-Up for Yesterday by Ogden Nash:
After Mack's retirement in 1950, Major League Baseball passed two rules that would have affected Mack today. The first rule prohibited managers to have any financial stake in the team they are managing. This would later come to light on May 11, 1977, when Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner sent manager Dave Bristol on a "scouting trip" so he could manage the Braves himself. He only ran the team for one game (a 2–1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates) before National League president Chub Feeney told him that managers are not allowed to own financial interest in their club.
Another rule also required managers to wear a baseball uniform if they are to be in the dugout; Mack always wore a business suit instead, which is more common for head coaches in ice hockey and basketball. Although MLB would allow managers to wear suits if they stay out of the dugout, the fact that they are needed in the dugout frequently effectively bans them from wearing a suit.
Mack's son Earle Mack played several games for the A's between 1910 and 1914, and also managed the team for parts of the 1937 and 1939 seasons when his father was too ill to do so. In more recent years, his descendants have taken to politics: Mack's grandson Connie Mack III was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida from 1983 to 1989 and the United States Senate from 1989 to 2001, and great-grandson Connie Mack IV served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2005 to 2013, representing Florida's 14th congressional district.
He was born in East Brookfield, Massachusetts to Irish immigrants, Michael McGillicuddy and Mary McKillop. He did not have a middle name, but many accounts erroneously give him the middle name "Alexander"; this error probably arose because his son Cornelius McGillicuddy Jr. took Alexander as his confirmation name.
In 1877, Mack left school at the age of fourteen after finishing the eighth grade. Partly this was because he needed to help support his large extended family, since his father, whose health had been ruined in the Civil War, was an alcoholic and no longer worked. Mack always regretted his lack of education and advised college players to finish their degrees before they began their baseball careers.
On November 2, 1887, he married Margaret Hogan, whom the Spencer Leader described as having "a sunny and vivacious disposition." They had three children, Earle, Roy, and Marguerite. Margaret died in December 1892 after complications from her third childbirth.
He married a second time on October 27, 1910. His second wife was Catherine (or Katharine) Holahan (or Hoolahan); the census records disagree. (The wedding register reads "Catarina Hallahan".) The couple had four daughters and a son, Cornelius Jr. A faithful Catholic his entire life, Mack was also a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus (Santa Maria Council 263 in Flourtown, Pennsylvania).
From early on in life he was known as "Mack", as his father had been. However, he never formally changed his name. On the occasion of his second marriage, at age 48, he signed the wedding register "Cornelius McGillicuddy". His nickname on the field was "Slats."
- Major League Baseball all-time managerial wins
- List of Major League Baseball player–managers
- Connie Mack Stadium (Shibe Park)
- Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball, by Norman L. Macht (University of Nebraska Press). Nominee for the 2007 The Casey Award; Roy Kaplan's Baseball Bookshelf).
|Commons has media related to Connie Mack.|
- Find a Grave
- Baseball-Reference.com – career managing record
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Photograph of Benjamin Shibe, Connie Mack and others at the groundbreaking of Shibe Park, later Connie Mack Stadium, in 1908 courtesy Temple University Libraries