"To me, the name of Connie Mack always has been synonymous with baseball, standing for everything that is best for the game he loved.” – Will Harridge.
Connie Mack was perhaps more synonymous with the team he managed than any skipper in baseball history. For 50 years, the slender Mack stood tall in the Philadelphia Athletics’ dugout in his trademark business suit and was known as The Grand Old Man of Baseball. During those five decades, Mack assembled two separate dynasties and won a total of nine AL pennants and five World Series titles.
Mack’s 65 years in baseball began as a catcher with the Washington Nationals in 1886. Throughout his playing career, he survived more on guile than raw ability. Mack was one of the first catchers to play directly behind home plate instead of setting up by the backstop. He was also famous for his abilities to fake the sound of a foul tip with his mouth and “tip” opposing players’ bats during their swings. After 11 major league seasons with Washington, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, Mack served three seasons as the Pirates’ manager before American League founder Ban Johnson asked him to establish a club in Philadelphia.
As manager, treasurer and part owner of the Athletics, Mack wielded unusual power during a tenure in Philadelphia that outlasted that of eight U.S. Presidents. The A’s were the American League’s first powerhouse franchise, capturing six of the league’s first 14 pennants – including four of five pennants between 1910-14.
But after winning World Series titles in 1910, 1911 and 1913, the A’s were swept in the 1914 Fall Classic by the Boston Braves and faced with an economic recession and the advent of the upstart Federal League, Mack took the unusual move of selling off the cornerstones of his championship clubs. Mack would repeat the decision after another Philadelphia dynasty won three straight pennants from 1929-31.
“No other manager in the history of the game ever handled more young players and brought more of them to stardom and to fortune,” wrote The New York Times in Mack’s obituary. “But it is probable that he will be best remembered for his sensational scrapping of championship machines.”
Even when his clubs bottomed out, however, Mack could be expected to rebuild his club back into winning form, piece by piece. Furthermore, he was genuinely beloved by his players for his leadership style that was both stern and gentle.
“He was a new type of manager,” The Times observed. “The old-time leaders ruled by force, often thrashing players who disobeyed orders on the field or broke club rules off the field. One of the kindest and most soft-spoken of men, he always insisted that he could get better results by kindness. He never humiliated a player by public criticism. No one ever heard him scold a man in the most trying times of his many pennant fights.”
Known as “The Tall Tactician,” Mack finally retired from the game of baseball after the 1950 season at the age of 87. In his unprecedented 53 years as a manager, Mack won 3,731 games – a feat that is unlikely to ever be matched. He received the Bok Award for his service to Philadelphia in 1929, which was a recognition typically saved for artists and business professionals. In 1937, Mack was part of the second class elected into the Hall of Fame.
"Humanity is the keystone that holds nations and men together,” Mack once said. “When that collapses, the whole structure crumbles. This is as true of baseball teams as any other pursuit in life."
Mack passed away on Feb. 8, 1956.