Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Class Act

In conducting research for an in-depth project such as Cellar Dwellers, you can't help becoming partial to particular personalities. As I was exploring the history of the Philadelphia Athletics, Connie Mack quickly became one of my favorites.

Elegant, kindly and wise, Mack served as manager of the A's from 1901--when he was a 38 year-old veteran of eleven major league seasons--through 1950, when he finally stepped down at the advanced age of 87. In that span, he led the club to 9 pennants and 5 World Series titles. The low point of his career came in 1915 as he auctioned off his best players (including Hall of Famers Frank "Home Run" Baker and Eddie Collins) on the heels of a disappointing Series loss to the Braves. The high point arrived more than a decade later when his ongoing rebuilding project came to fruition with three straight Fall Classic apperances.

The classy Mack always wore a suit in the dugout and maintained his dignity when those around him did not. Over the course of my research, I encountered just one example of Mack resorting to profanity. It happened in the Depression Era when hot-headed Hall of Famer Left Grove was a member of the squad. As the story goes, Mack came out to relieve Grove after a particularly rough outing and the surly southpaw advised Mack to "go take a shit." "No, Robert, You go take a shit," Mack responded. The expletive proved effective as Grove reportedly handed over the ball and stalked off the mound.

Most of the time, Mack rose above such unpleasantness. In an amusing exchange during the latter part of his career, Mack put infielder Ferris Fain in his place. A top-notch glove man and two-time batting champion, Fain had one erratic spell during which he threw two balls into the grandstand in the spaceof a week. Mack offered a few words of advice: "Perhaps you should pick up the ball and hold it," he suggested. "What do you want me to do with it," Fain retorted, "stick it up my ass?" "Well, Ferris," Mack dead-panned, "You'll have to admit it would be safer there." 

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