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About Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, Sr.
Cornelius McGillicuddy, Sr. (December 22, 1862 – February 8, 1956), better known as Connie Mack, was an American professional baseball player, manager, and team owner. The longest-serving manager in Major League Baseball history, he holds records for wins (3,731), losses (3,948), and games managed (7,755), with his victory total being almost 1,000 more than any other manager. He managed the Philadelphia Athletics for the club's first 50 seasons of play before retiring at age 87 following the 1950 season, and was at least part-owner from 1901 to 1954. He was the first manager to win the World Series three times, and is the only manager to win consecutive Series on separate occasions (1910–11, 1929–30); his five Series titles remain the third most by any manager, and his nine American League pennants rank second in league history. However, constant financial struggles forced repeated rebuilding of the roster, and Mack's teams also finished in last place 17 times. Mack was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
Beginning in 1886, Mack played 10 seasons in the National League and one in the Players League, for a total of 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, almost entirely as a catcher.
After serving as captain of the East Brookfield town team, he played on minor-league teams in the Connecticut cities of Meriden and Hartford before signing with the Washington, DC team of the National League (variously called the Statesmen, Nationals, or Senators) in 1886. In the winter of 1889, he jumped to the Buffalo team of the new Players League, the Bisons, investing his entire life savings of five hundred dollars in shares of the club. However, the Players League went out of business after only a year, and Mack lost his job and his whole investment. In December 1890 Mack signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League and remained with them for the rest of his career as a full-time player.
As a player, Mack was "a light-hitting catcher, had a reputation as a smart player, but didn't do anything particularly well as a player."
Mack was one of the first catchers to move up to play directly behind the plate, instead of back by the backstop. He developed strengths such as blocking the plate, or faking the sound of a foul tip (he was probably responsible for the 1891 rule change to make a batter not out if the catcher caught a foul tip with fewer than two strikes). He would also needle batters to distract them. According to Wilbert Robinson, "Mack never was mean....[but] if you had any soft spot, Connie would find it. He could do and say things that got more under your skin than the cuss words used by other catchers." Another skill was tipping bats[discuss] to throw off a player's swing. He never denied such tricks.
"Farmer Weaver was a catcher-outfielder for Louisville. I tipped his bat several times when he had two strikes on him one year, and each time the umpire called him out. He got even, though. One time there were two strikes on him and he swung as the pitch was coming in. But he didn't swing at the ball. He swung right at my wrists. Sometimes I think I can still feel the pain. I'll tell you I didn't tip his bat again. No, sir, not until the last game of the season and Weaver was at bat for the last time. After he had two strikes, I tipped his bat again and got away with it."
Mack's last three seasons in the National League were as a player-manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1894 to 1896, with a 149–134 (.527) record. After the 1896 season, he retired as a full-time player and accepted a deal from Henry Killilea to act as manager and occasional backup catcher for the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers. He agreed to a salary of $3000 and 25% of the club. He managed the Brewers for four seasons from 1897 to 1900, their best year coming in 1900, when they finished second. It was in Milwaukee that he first signed pitcher Rube Waddell, who would follow him to the big leagues.
In 1901, he became manager, treasurer, and part owner of the new American League's Philadelphia Athletics. Mack managed the Athletics through the 1950 season, for a record of 3,582–3,814 (.484) when he retired at age 87. His 50-year tenure as Athletics manager is the most ever for a coach or manager with the same team in North American professional sports; only Joe Paterno with 62 seasons as a football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, surpassed Mack even in the collegiate ranks, though only 46 of those years were as the head coach. Eddie Robinson, football coach for Grambling State from 1941 (when it was the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute) to 1997 also beat him. Mack won nine pennants and appeared in eight World Series, winning five.
He was widely praised in the newspapers for his intelligent and innovative managing, which earned him the nickname "the Tall Tactician". He valued intelligence and "baseball smarts", always looking for educated players. (He traded away Shoeless Joe Jackson, despite his talent, because of his bad attitude and unintelligent play.) "Better than any other manager, Mack understood and promoted intelligence as an element of excellence." Mack wanted men who were self-directed, self-disciplined, and self-motivated; his ideal player was Eddie Collins.
"Mack looked for seven things in a young player: physical ability, intelligence, courage, disposition, will power, general alertness, and personal habits."
Mack also looked for players with quiet and disciplined personal lives, having seen many players destroy themselves and their teams through heavy drinking in his playing days. Mack himself never drank; before the 1910 World Series he asked all his players to "take the pledge" not to drink during the Series. When Topsy Hartsel told Mack he needed a drink the night before the final game, Mack told him to do what he thought best, but in these circumstances "If it was me I'd die before I took a drink."
However, he was not a tyrant; he was an easygoing manager and never imposed curfews or bed checks. He made the best of what he had; Rube Waddell was his best pitcher and biggest gate attraction, so Mack put up with his drinking and general unreliability for years, until it began to bring the team down and the other players asked Mack to get rid of him.
Mack's strength as a manager was finding the best players, teaching them well, and letting them play. "He did not believe that baseball revolved around managerial strategy." He was "one of the first managers to work on repositioning his fielders" during the game, often directing the outfielders to move left or right, play shallow or deep, by waving his scorecard from the bench. After he became well-known for doing this, he often passed his instructions to the fielders by way of other players, and simply waved his scorecard as a feint.
Baseball historian Bill James sums up Mack's managerial approach as follows: he favored a set lineup; did not generally use a platoon approach; preferred young players to veterans; preferred hitters with power who got on base a lot to high-batting-average players; did not often send in a pinch-hitter; did not often use his bench players; did not often employ the sacrifice bunt (even so, the A's led the league in sacrifice bunts in 1909, 1911, 1914); believed in "big-inning" offense rather than small ball; and very rarely issued an intentional base on balls.
Over the course of his career he had three pennant-winning teams. His original team, with players like Rube Waddell, Ossee Schreckengost, and Eddie Plank, won the pennant in 1902 and 1905, losing the 1905 World Series to the New York Giants. During that season, New York's manager John McGraw said that Mack had "a big white elephant on his hands" with the Athletics. Mack adopted a white elephant as the team's logo, which the Athletics still use today.
As his first team aged, Mack acquired a core of young players to form his second great team, which featured Mack's famous "$100,000 infield" of Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker, Jack Barry and Stuffy McInnis. These Athletics, captained by catcher Ira Thomas, won the pennant in 1910, 1911, 1913, and 1914, beating the Cubs in the World Series in 1910 and beating the Giants in 1911 and 1913, and losing to the Boston Braves in 1914.
That team was dispersed due to financial problems, from which Mack did not recover until the twenties, when he built his third great team. The 1927 Athletics featured several future Hall of Fame players including veterans Ty Cobb, Zack Wheat, and Eddie Collins as well as players in their prime such as Mickey Cochrane, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons, and rookie Jimmie Foxx. That team won the pennant in 1929, 1930, and 1931, beating the Chicago Cubs in the World Series in 1929 and beating the St. Louis Cardinals in 1930. The Athletics lost to the Cardinals in 1931.
That team was dispersed after 1932 when Mack ran into financial difficulty again. By 1934, the A's had fallen into the second division. Apart from three straight winning records from 1947 to 1949, he would never field another winning team, and he never won the pennant again.
According to Bill James, by the time he recovered financially, he was "old and out of touch with the game, so his career ends with eighteen years of miserable baseball." It was generally agreed that he stayed in the game too long, which hurt his legacy.
The American League's white knight, Charles Somers, provided the seed money to start the Athletics and several other American League teams. However, plans called for local interests to buy out Somers as soon as possible. To that end, Mack persuaded sporting goods manufacturer Ben Shibe, a minority owner of the rival Philadelphia Phillies, to buy a 50 percent stake in the team—an offer sweetened by Mack's promise that Shibe would have the exclusive right to make baseballs for the American League. In return, Mack was allowed to buy a 25 percent stake, and was named treasurer of the team. Two local sports writers, Frank Hough and Sam Jones, bought the remaining 25 percent, but their involvement was not mentioned in the incorporating papers; in fact, no agreement was put on paper until 1902. Mack and Shibe did business on a handshake.
In 1913, Hough and Jones sold their 25 percent to Mack, making him a full partner in the club with Shibe; Mack actually borrowed the money for the purchase from Shibe. Under their agreement, Mack had full control over baseball matters while Shibe handled the business side. When Shibe died in 1922, his sons Tom and John took over management of the business side, with Tom as team president and John as vice president. Tom died in 1936, and John resigned shortly thereafter (he died in 1937), leaving Mack as sole owner.
Mack's great strength as an owner was his huge network of baseball friends, all of whom acted as scouts and "bird-dogs" for him, finding talented players and alerting Mack. "Mack was better at that game than anybody else in the world. People liked Mack, respected him, and trusted him....Mack answered every letter and listened patiently to every sales job, and...he got players for that reason."
Mack saw baseball as a business, and recognized that economic necessity drove the game. He explained to his cousin, Art Dempsey, that "The best thing for a team financially is to be in the running and finish second. If you win, the players all expect raises." This was one reason he was constantly collecting players, signing almost anyone to a ten-day contract to assess his talent; he was looking ahead to future seasons when his veterans would either retire or hold out for bigger salaries than Mack could give them.
Unlike most baseball owners, Mack had almost no income apart from the A's, so he was often in financial difficulties. Money problems – the escalation of his best players' salaries (due both to their success and to competition from the new, well-financed Federal League), combined with a steep drop in attendance due to World War I — led to the gradual dispersal of his second championship team, the 1910–1914 team, who he sold, traded, or released over the years 1915–1917. The war hurt the team badly, leaving Mack without the resources to sign valuable players. His 1916 team, with a 36–117 record, is often considered the worst team in American League history, and its .235 winning percentage is still the lowest ever for a modern era (since the advent of the World Series in 1903) major league team. All told, the A's finished dead last in the AL seven years in a row from 1915 to 1921, and would not reach .500 again until 1926. The rebuilt team won back-to-back championships in 1929-1930 over the Cubs and Cardinals, and then lost a rematch with the latter in 1931. As it turned out, these were the last WS titles and pennants the Athletics would win in Philadelphia or for another four decades.
With the onset of the Great Depression, Mack struggled financially again, and was forced to sell the best players from his second great championship team, such as Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx, to stay in business. Although Mack wanted to rebuild again and win more championships, he was never able to do so owing to a lack of funds. Mack celebrated his 70th birthday in 1932, and many began wondering if his best days were behind him. He stubbornly maintained total control over the day-to-day operations of the Athletics both as owner and manager long after most teams had ceased this practice. The Athletics' record from 1935-46 was dismal, finishing in the basement of the AL every year except a 5th place finish in 1944. World War II brought further hardship due to personnel shortages, but the octogenarian Mack somehow got the team to three winning seasons in 1947-49 before they sunk back into the basement in 1950.
In 1950, Mack (now 88) was persuaded by his sons Earle and Roy to relinquish his duties as manager after half a century at the helm. As he entered his 80s, he found himself unable to handle the post-World War II changes in baseball, including the growing commercialization of the game.
"Toward the end he was old and sick and saddened, a figure of forlorn dignity bewildered by the bickering around him as the baseball monument that he had built crumbled away."
At the time of his retirement, Mack himself stated:
"I'm not quitting because I'm getting old, I'm quitting because I think people want me to."
After he retired from active management of the Athletics, the team crumbled to the bottom of the American League, nearly going bankrupt as the crosstown Phillies contested their second World Series in 1950. In 1954, the despondent Mack finally sold his beloved team to Midwestern businessman Arnold Johnson, who promptly moved it to Kansas City, Missouri. Mack died two years later on February 8, 1956 at the age of 93.
Mack was quiet, even-tempered, and gentlemanly. He was generally addressed as "Mr. Mack." He always called his players by their given names. Chief Bender, for instance, was "Albert" to Mack. Perhaps due to his great longevity in the game, there grew up around him a kind of saintly image; his long-time friends objected to the image of him as "the bloodless saint so often painted, a sanctimonious old Puritan patting babies." His friend Red Smith called him "tough and warm and wonderful, kind and stubborn and courtly and unreasonable and generous and calculating and naive and gentle and proud and humorous and demanding and unpredictable."
Beginning as far back as his first managing job in the nineteenth century, Mack drew criticism from the newspapers for not spending enough money. Some writers called him an outright miser, accusing him of getting rid of star players so he could "line his own pockets" with the money. However, his biographer Norman Macht strongly defends Mack on this question, contending that Mack's spending decisions were forced on him by his financial circumstances, and that nearly all the money he made went back to the team. Mack himself was upset by these allegations; when some writers accused him of deliberately losing the second game of the 1913 World Series in order to extend the series and make more money in ticket sales, he uncharacteristically wrote an angry letter to the Saturday Evening Post to deny it, saying "I consider playing for the gate receipts...nothing short of dishonest." With the Athletics leading the Series three games to one, several New York writers predicted that the Athletics would deliberately lose Game Five in New York so that Mack would not have to refund the $50,000 in ticket sales for Game Six in Philadelphia. After reading this, Mack told his players that if they won Game Five he would give them the team's entire share of the Game Five gate receipts – about $34,000. The Athletics did win, and Mack gave out the money as promised.
Mack supported a large extended family and was generous to players in need, often finding jobs for former players. For instance, he kept Bender on the team payroll as a scout, minor league manager or coach from 1926 until Mack himself retired as owner-manager in 1950. Simmons was a coach for many years after his retirement as a player.
I shall never forget Connie Mack's gentleness and gentility.
Ty Cobb, New York Times
The Philadelphia stadium, originally called Shibe Park, was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953. Starting in 1909, it was home to the Athletics, and starting 1938, it was also home to the Phillies, then from 1955 to 1970 was home to the Phillies alone, after the Athletics moved to Kansas City.
In addition to his Hall of Fame election in 1937, in 2008, Connie Mack was the first person inducted into the New York City-based Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame. He is mentioned in the poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:
Line-Up for Yesterday
Q is for Don Quixote
Neither Yankees nor years
Can halt his attack. — Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949)
After Mack's retirement in 1950, Major League Baseball passed two rules that would have affected Mack today. The first rule prohibited managers to have any financial stake in the team they are managing. This would later come to light on May 11, 1977, when Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner sent manager Dave Bristol on a "scouting trip" so he could manage the Braves himself. He only ran the team for one game (a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates) before National League president Chub Feeney told him that managers are not allowed to own financial interest in their club.
Another rule also required managers to wear a baseball uniform if they are to be in the dugout; Mack always wore a business suit instead, which is more common for head coaches in ice hockey and basketball. Although MLB would allow managers to wear suits if they stay out of the dugout, the fact that they are needed in the dugout frequently effectively bans them from wearing a suit.
Mack's son Earle Mack played several games for the A's between 1910 and 1914, and also managed the team for parts of the 1937 and 1939 seasons when his father was too ill to do so. In more recent years, his descendants have taken to politics: Mack's grandson Connie Mack III was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida from 1983 to 1989 and the United States Senate from 1989 to 2001, and great-grandson Connie Mack IV currently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Florida's 14th congressional district.
He was born in East Brookfield, Massachusetts to Irish immigrants, Michael McGillicuddy and Mary McKillop. He did not have a middle name, but many accounts erroneously give him the middle name "Alexander"; this error probably arose because his son Cornelius McGillicuddy Jr. took Alexander as his confirmation name.
In 1877, Mack left school at the age of fourteen after finishing the eighth grade. Partly this was because he needed to help support his large extended family, since his father, whose health had been ruined in the Civil War, was an alcoholic and no longer worked. Mack always regretted his lack of education and advised college players to finish their degrees before they began their baseball careers.
On November 2, 1887, he married Margaret Hogan, whom the Spencer Leader described as having "a sunny and vivacious disposition." They had three children, Earle, Roy, and Marguerite. Margaret died in December 1892 after complications from her third childbirth.
He married a second time on October 27, 1910. His second wife was Catherine (or Katharine) Holahan (or Hoolahan); the census records disagree. (The wedding register reads "Catarina Hallahan".) The couple had four daughters and a son, Cornelius Jr. A faithful Catholic his entire life, Mack was also a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus (Santa Maria Council 263 in Flourtown, Pennsylvania).
From early on in life he was known as "Mack", as his father had been. However, he never formally changed his name. On the occasion of his second marriage, at age 48, he signed the wedding register "Cornelius McGillicuddy". His nickname on the field was "Slats."
Connie Mack's Timeline
December 22, 1862
East Brookfield, Massachusetts, United States
December 22, 1862
East Brookfield, Massachusetts, United States
February 1, 1890
October 27, 1910
October 27, 1910
They had five children.