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4.9 out of 5 stars
Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball
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“Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball” is a well-written and well-researched look at a worthy subject. Cornelius McGillicuddy’s (a.k.a. Connie Mack’s) life began just thirty-six years after the death of John Adams and ended during the Eisenhower administration. This biography does an excellent job of weaving Mack’s personal story together with world history, including the history of baseball. It’s obvious that the author admires Mack, as do I, but occasionally this leads to a lack of balance. Sometimes, the author seems to be like a zealous defense attorney, eager to attack anyone who accuses his client of any malfeasance while striving mightily to put his client in the most favorable light. Unhappily, this sometimes turns the author into an overly-aggressive prosecutor. The most glaring example of this lack of balance is in the book’s treatment of Christy Mathewson. Bob Gaines’ biography of Mathewson is a much more even-handed examination of Mathewson’s strengths and weaknesses, including all the ones mentioned by Norman Macht. Gaines includes this Connie Mack quote on Mathewson, which doesn’t appear in “Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball”: “He set a high moral code. He was lauded by the churches, ministers used his career as sermon topics, he gave dignity and character to baseball . . . he was the greatest pitcher who ever lived.” In short, Mr. Macht is an outstanding advocate for Connie Mack, but not as great as a D.A. One of my favorite parts of this book is this observation about Mr. Mack, by Mr. Macht, “Making baseball decisions-on players, strategies, how to bat and field and throw-this was his life, his joy. Not money.”
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Author Norman Macht has provided the reader with an in-depth biography of Connie Mack, The Tall Tactician, from his childhood years of growing up in Massachusetts through the 1914 season in which his "Athaletics" were swept by George Stallings and his Miracle Braves in the World Series. The book contains 673 pages of text, and it took me a week to pioneer my way through it.

Author Macht assures us that we get to know Mack the player with Hartford and Washington prior to moving on to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. Mack feels that his move to Milwaukee was one of the best decisions he made regarding his baseball career. We also learn about baseball wars involving the Players' League and the Federal League each of which went about raiding the major leagues of their talent.

This is also the story of baseball nabobs such as American League President Ban Johnson and Ben Shibe, owner of the Philadelphia Athletics. We also learn about players such as Frank "Home Run" Baker, Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, Eddie Collins, and others who played a prominent role during this time period for the Mackmen.

We also are given a thorough understanding of Mr. Mack's personality in relation to his players and umpires. His temper could exhibit itself in a foul manner if the situation arose in regard to either one, but he generally had a reputation of treating both with respect. Mr. Mack did share one tidbit that has been illustrated by Branch Rickey as well. Both of them have said that, although the goal is to win the pennant in your league prior to going on to the World Series, ideally it is better financially to stay in contention and finish second because if you win the pennant you end up having to pay your players more money.

I did find one minor error in the book. On page 76 it is mentioned Buffalo, New York, is where the Niagara River flows into Lake Erie. Actually it is the reverse. It is at Buffalo, New York, where Lake Erie flows into the Niagara River. I know! Picky! Picky!

I hope author Macht is continuing with his in-depth study of Connie Mack, and we can look forward to Part Two in the ongoing-saga in the life of one of the true pioneers of baseball.
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on April 27, 2013
This is a wonderful, well written history of baseball's early days which Connie Mack was a big part of. Mack was a player, manager and eventually owner during the early decades of baseball history. Mr Macht, the author is a witty, amusing writer and presents a detailed but very readable story. He is in general an admiring biographer but points out repeatedly that Mack was far from perfect in his baseball dealings.. Connie Mack has often been accused by other baseball writers of being a penny pinching, miserly operator in his dealings with players. Macht presents a different picture, pointing out instances of Mack's generosity with players. The most telling thing along this line is the many cases of men who played for Mack and then maintained life long friendships with him. Many of his players continued to work for the Philadelphia A's after their playing days ended, some of them maintaining life long association with Mack and the A's.
Other players and baseball personalities are covered also, much detail for instance about Ban Johnson and the formation of the American League which Connie Mack was intimately involved with. Many colorful stories about some of the very colorful characters who played for Mack such as Rube Waddell, Frank Baker and Eddie Collins.
This is a big book, running to near 700 pages but all of it worth reading for a baseball fan. There is another volume covering the years 1915 to 1931. I have acquired it and look forward to another excellent read..
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on January 8, 2013
This is an excellent biography, perfectly able to stand next to those of great biographers such as David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Peter Ackroyd, Claire Tomalin or countless others. It is a well written, well researched and highly detailed biography. It is also a joy to read. Connie Mack was a good, kind, dedicated baseball man who was loyal to the players under his charge. He treated everyone equally well. He was always willing to take a moment to respond to a hello on the street and personally answered all his mail. If you wanted to talk baseball, he might spend a few hours chatting with you. Getting to know him well is one of the great strengths of this book.

Another charming aspect of the book is the many colorful characters the reader is introduced to--whether teammates of Mack's during his playing career, or players under him during his 50-plus years of managing in the big leagues. The list is too lengthy to mention, but some of my favorites were Rube Waddell, the flame-throwing southpaw who just wouldn't grow up, and Gettysburg Eddie Plank, who pitched for Mack's Philadelphia Athletics for 14 years. Plank was a tour guide at the Gettysburg battlefield during the off-season.

One player who does not come off so well is Christy Mathewson, who pitched for the New York Giants and against the A's in three World Series. Generally considered an educated gentleman at a time when many players were rowdies, Mathewson twice signed contracts with teams in the American League, only to "jump" back to the National League Giants. He was also critical of his own teammates in print during the 1911 World's Series.

Though this is the first in a three-volume series on Mack, it is a book that can easily stand by itself. A superb biography of a good and great man.
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VINE VOICEon May 1, 2008
After researching Connie Mack for more than 20 years, author Norman Macht definitely knows his subject. Macht masterfully weaves the story of Mack and the early years of baseball in this 675-page biography, which covers the time from Mack's birth in 1862 through 1914.

Mack is the ideal subject to use to tell about baseball's early years because he was involved, in one way or another, in virtually every development. Macht chronicles Mack's childhood, his family, his days as a player and manager.

Macht spends much of the first part of the book dispelling myths about baseball's early years and Mack.

As a catcher, Mack was underrated. Writer Hugh Fullerton described him as a "better hitter than credited and dangerous in the pinch. He was a perfect backstop; cool, unhurried, deadly in throwing."

Wilbert Robinson called him "a little tin god behind the plate."

Macht writes that "It's difficult to reconcile the later image of Mack the public remembers--dignified, kind and soft-spoken--with the sharp-tongued, hot-headed manager of the 1890s, which he was."

Macht does an excellent job of capturing what the times were like, both on and off the field. A reader will learn a lot about the issues of the times and how the rules changed during baseball's early years.

Macht is extremely knowledgeable about the personalities of the players associated with Mack. He has a habit of adding little details, insight and color that bring the players to life. He does the same with Mack's family life. You truly feel you are in Mack's shoes.

While Macht is a noted baseball historian, he is also an excellent writer. He avoids the pitfall of getting bogged down in too many details, and he tells the story in an easy-to-read manner.

Although Macht explains why his book doesn't have a bibliography or footnotes, their absence is disappointing, particularly since Macht is a baseball historian.

Macht plans a second volume which will cover 1915 through Mack's death.
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on June 1, 2017
One of the best books on baseball I've ever read.
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on November 11, 2007
This is a well researched, well written,
detailed book on the life of Connie Mack. The author states he spent twenty-two years working on this book. The book is interesting from the start. In the forward, former United States Senator Connie Mack III tells about being a youngster and helping take care of his grandfather. It begins with the birth of Connie Mack and ends seven hundred pages later with the 1914 season. Connie Mack was not only very intelligent as a manager but also as a player in the National and Players Leagues. Mack had a large hand in helping form the American League and this book gives an account of how the American League was formed. Mack sent scouts or scouted on his own as he built the Philadelphia Athletics dynasty. Players such as Eddie Plank and Rube Waddell are brought to life. Also, Mack was very kind and giving, supporting many members of his family and friends. Several long standing beliefs about Mack are debunked. This book is a must read for baseball historians. Here is hoping 1915- is in the works.
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on February 1, 2008
This book brings to light of the early struggles of Baseball and maybe the basis for the future establishment of the current players union. In the early days the owners had all the control. Billy Beane of the Oakland A's is not the original trader of A's players, Connie Mack long ago started that tradition. The problem with this exhaustive book on the early years of this Baseball legend is that it begs for more. What interesting stories are there for those bad teams in his final years when he had very little talent and no superstars. This is a great book but remember it doesn't tell the whole story of the legend Connie Mack.
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on February 20, 2016
Still reading this volume, and find it fascinating and expertly written. I already purchased volumes 2 and 3 for my Kindle so I intend to read the entire trilogy. I highly recommend this book to anyone.
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on October 26, 2016
Macht does a wonderful job of going into detail while keeping the subject matter intriguing.
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