October 16, 2019

Marvelous Mack

December 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Connie Mack, “The Tall Tactician”, Major League Baseball’s longest-tenured manager for 50 seasons with the Philadelphia A’s, employer of the $100,000 infield.

If ever you wanted to discover something about Mack or the dawn of baseball, chances are you will find it in “Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball“ by Norman L. Macht. Macht’s biography spans 676 pages, excluding the index, and went to press after more than two decades of research.

Says the author, “[Since I first met Connie Mack] I’d seen a steadily growing parade of books on John McGraw, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle, along with carloads of biographies and ‘as-told-tos’ of lesser baseball figures. Nothing on Connie Mack. Here was a man who was born before professional baseball existed, whose life was the history of baseball.” (xi, Connie)

Pick up Norman L. Macht’s encyclopedic-like volume because:

1. Whereas other tales of Connie Mack center on the man’s baseball acumen, this biography explores the rest of the man’s makeup.

Connie Mack stuck out all of his life. Few men grew to six feet in his day, and what’s more, Mack did not fill out that frame. As usual, Mack had a plan to silence his detractors. He decided while clothes did not make the man, they would make him look like a pro’s pro from a young age through his adult years.

Mack developed another technique early in his playing career behind the plate. He never stopped talking. That could really get to a batter. Inside a batter’s head, Mack knew he had his opponent at a point of weakness, so he kept pushing his opponent. On strikeout opportunities, Mack moved as close as he could to the plate, sometimes grazing the bat. I’m dreadfully sorry, he would feign.

2. Connie Mack was a forerunner.

In the days of minimal scouting, Mack had his own way of doing that too. While opponents employed one scout or at the most three, Mack charged six with the responsibility. Mack himself networked before networking existed. The manager never denied a tryout. Acquaintances, then, unceasingly searched for prospects for the man. Priority No. 1 for a new recruit? He’d do well to think fast and play fast.

3. How did Mack, peculiar as he was, compare with the culture around him? America had its share of eccentricities as well. Macht gives the reader ample opportunity to scratch his or her head looking back at the turn of the century.

Superstitions that continue today abounded in the early days of baseball and in the greater American society. Finding a hairpin boded well for the hitter. But be ready for a downturn if you spied a funeral procession. For some pitchers, the only cure for striking out the leadoff man was to allow the other team to score a run. Mack wore the scorecard pencil down to the nub when his team found itself on a winning streak.

Was it was the wins (and losses) that did it? Or the quirks that made opposing baseball men wonder, cringe and admire at the same time? Mack’s striking figure, you say? Or something that you can’t quite place? No matter. Connie Mack established himself as an enduring figure. Read about those traits and much more in Macht’s gargantuan study of the unmistakable Connie Mack.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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