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Connie Mack: The Turbulent and Triumphant Years, 1915-1931 Hardcover – April 1, 2012
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Mr. Mack possessed the attribute of patience which enabled him to withstand years of rebuilding which required trying out various individuals who fancied themselves as potential major league baseball players. The vast majority of these proved themselves to be suspects rather than prospects. Eventually his patience paid off by adding the likes of Moses "Lefty" Groves (later shortened to Grove), Mickey Cochrane, Jimmy Foxx, and Al Simmons. A note of trivia mentioned that two Hall of Famers (Grove and Cochrane) both made their debut in the same game. The "Ath-a-letics" just missed out with a pennant-winning team in 1928 to the New York Yankees, but then went on to defeat the Cubs in the 1929 Series and the Cardinals in 1930 before losing out to the Redbirds of John Leonard "Pepper" Martin. "The Wild Horse of the Osage" ran wild, and Athletics' catcher Mickey Cochrane received blame for Martin's base running success.
Connie Mack was a much-respected individual among his own players, the opposition, and the public at large. He had time for anyone who exhibited an interest in him, and numerous individuals were the beneficiary of his benevolence. One of Mack's prized possessions was an autographed photo when Ty Cobb was a rookie in which Cobb stated he wished he could have played for him when at the age he was in the photo. Both Cobb and Tris Speaker played out their career with Mack's team.
One chapter that was not of any particular length, but of special interest to me, was Chapter 26 entitled "Shibe Park and the Neighborhood." This chapter illustrated the many individuals who were involved in making the necessary preparations prior to the playing of a baseball game. From those involved to providing parking for cars, providing buns and hot dogs, sweeping out the stadium, and the maintenance shop for Mr. Shibe's numerous boats beneath Shibe Park.
Sportswriter James Isaminger referred to Mr. Mack using his alliterative word skills to call him "The Tall Tactician", "The Tall Tutor", or "The Lean Leader." Mr. Mack possessed an uncanny skill to deal with individuals such as the hot-tempered "Lion of Lonaconing", "Lefty" Grove. Mr. Mack would occasionally let fly a profanity of sorts, but he usually expressed frustration with such "expletives" such as "bosh" or "horse feathers."
This book is baseball and social history at its best. It is also the story of numerous individuals such as Jimmy Dykes, Joe Boley, Max Bishop, George Earnshaw, Bing Miller, Rube Walberg, Jimmy "Double X" Foxx, Eddie Collins, Judge Landis, and numerous others.
Don't let the size of this book make you hesitant to read it. Take it a chapter or two at a time, and you will be richly rewarded for your efforts. I anxiously await Mr. Macht's third volume in the life of Connie Mack.
Mack figured he had built a winning team before (the A's from 1910-1914) and he could do it again. Knowledgeable baseball fans and sportswriters had little reason to doubt Mack, who was considered one of the best baseball minds. Instead, it took Mack 11 years to field another winner.
One of the things Macht does best is to keep the events of the day in perspective with the times instead of offering a revisionist history. According to Macht, revisionists often oversimplify Mack's actions and motivations. Macht says it's easier to look back 100 years than it is to look ahead five or six years.
Despite Mack's actions after the 1914 season, he, as well as other observers, still felt the A's could be competitive. Pilloried as a penny-pincher and skinflint, Mack cut payroll and expenses because baseball is a business and he understood it. The cheap label was unfairly hung on Mack and it has outlived him by 60 years. Unbelievably, four other teams, including the seventh-place Yankees outdrew the A's in 1914 when they went to their third World Series in four years. And, although manager John McGraw also had dismantled the Giants by the end of the 1916 season getting rid of eight of his 1914 starters, Mack receives the most attention.
Mack took patience to a new level from 1915 to 1925. In 1915, Macht writes that there were basically three A's teams--one coming, one playing and one going. Fifty-six players, including 24 pitchers, appeared in at least one game for the A's. From June 27 to August 4, the A's went 2-41 with the two victories coming on shutouts by Joe Bush. The A's went 43-109 and drew a team record-low of 146,223. Mack, however, wasn't discouraged on the field or at the turnstiles. He realistically knew the team would have to take its lumps before it got better. Despite the seemingly never-ending losses, Mack projected "dignity in failure, a rare act," writes Macht.
Mack's search for the next great players, particularly pitchers, continued for more than a decade. He was happiest when he had youngsters to teach because they gave him hope. Mack was often referred to as "the greatest teacher of them all."
By 1925 (cutting through a string of woeful seasons and endless frustrations), Mack fielded a winning team (88-64) and had started to assemble some of the key players to win three pennants and two World Series from 1929-1931.
The 1929 A's owned a 53-13 record (.757) on July 4, still an AL record, and finished with 104 wins, 18 games ahead of the New York Yankees. The greatest game of Mack's long career occurred on Oct. 12, 1929 when the A's rallied for 10 runs in the seventh inning in Game 4 of the World Series to beat the Chicago Cubs. Pitcher Eddie Rommel said it was the happiest he ever saw Connie Mack. Winning the 1929 World Series was a great moment for Mack, particularly considering what he had endured. Macht provides detailed and interesting accounts of the 1929, 1930 and 1931 World Series.
By the end of 1931, Mack was "the most admired and respected man in America. People were inspired by his optimism, pluck and perseverance, his refusal to quit the quest for success, his innate fairness and sportsmanship and his generosity."
The richness of this book for the serious baseball fan can't be captured in a book review. Every chapter is a gem as Macht offers what seems to be an insider's view to the game at the time. He covers rule changes, the business of the game, how baseball politics shaped events and outcomes, Mack's family life while offering insights into even the most obscure players.
Reading the first two volumes, totaling more than 1,300 pages, of Macht's biography of Connie Mack not only generates respect for Mack, but also for the Macht as a writer, researcher and historian. Hopefully, the final third volume will be published before too long. Baseball fans and historians are indebted to Macht for shedding so much light on Mack and his times.
Most recent customer reviews
The tome begins with Connie's dismantlement of his Championship team of...Read more
My only suggestions are an Appendix with the A's record, attendance, and standing for each...Read more