Comprehensive and interesting portrait of one of baseball’s most successful managers.
Born Cornelius McGillicuddy in East Brookfield, Mass., Connie Mack (1862–1956) devoted his life to the fledgling sport of professional baseball. Despite a slender frame, Mack excelled as a catcher, his defensive skills more than compensating for his less-than-stellar abilities with the bat. He was capable enough to move from a local amateur team to a salaried spot with the Meriden team in the Connecticut State League. He played for the Washington Nationals of the National League and experimented with a Player’s League before taking his first executive post as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fired by the Pirates, he moved to the Milwaukee Brewers and assumed a leadership role in every level of club management, from scouting to scheduling to in-game decisions, experience that would aid him later in his career. Hailed as an innovator, Mack employed such revolutionary tactics as the use of multiple pitchers during a game. His skills eventually took him to the Philadelphia Athletics, a team he led to five World Series victories. (In all of baseball history, only the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals have ever surpassed this total.) Veteran baseball historian Macht (Roberto Clemente, 2001, etc.) paints an interesting portrait of the sport at the turn of the 20th century, dispelling the myth that players endured the season’s marathon length and frequent, potentially crippling injuries only because they so loved the game. Then as now, he points out, money motivated them as much as anything else. Macht capably traces the evolution of baseball’s rules and customs over the years, while also revealing that the players’ behavior (for better or worse) closely approximated that of the athletes today. Some 700 pages take us only to 1914, but the book is so detailed that it makes fascinating reading despite its length.
A compelling look at a legend and an era.