Today in History

Today in History: December 22

The Tall Tactician

Connie Mack baseball card
Connie Mack,
[Baseball card issued by the] Nadja Caramel Company, 1910.
Baseball Cards, 1887-1914

Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, known as Connie Mack, the "Tall Tactician" of major league baseball, was born on December 22, 1862, in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Ramrod-straight and a string bean of a man at 6'1" and 150 pounds, Mack was a professional baseball player prior to serving as manager and team executive for fifty-three years.

Fifty of those years, from 1901 through the 1950 season, were spent as owner-manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. The A's won nine American League championships and five World Series under the management of this beloved and respected baseball legend. In 1937, Mack was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (external link).

Mack played professional ball, mostly as a catcher, in more than 700 major league games. The story that he shortened his name to Mack so that it would fit on the scoreboard is untrue; his family had been known commonly as Mack since Connie was a boy. In 1901, he became manager and owner of a 25 percent stake in the Philadelphia club, which was named the Athletics after the old American Association team of the 1880s.

Mack was easy to spot on the bench—he was the man in the business suit (as seen in the panoramic team photograph displayed below). Mr. Mack, as he was respectfully referred to, never wore a uniform and rarely went into the clubhouse except for a pre-game meeting, a practice that he initiated in the major leagues.

Team pictures of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team
Philadelphia "Athletics", Champions of the World, 1913.
Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

Mack led the A's to their first pennant in 1902, in great measure because of the pitching of Rube Waddell and Eddie Plank. Mack often said that pitching was 75 percent of baseball and that strong pitching was the hallmark of his winning teams. He had a reputation for turning young pitchers into stars. He brought Plank and Chief Bender into the majors directly from college teams and he guided the talented but eccentric Waddell through that pitcher's greatest seasons.

Between 1910 and 1914, Mack's club won four American League pennants and three World Series by combining good pitching with the "$100,000 infield," led by Eddie Collins and Frank Baker. However, Mack viewed baseball primarily as a business. When money was scarce, he did not hesitate to sell his stars and start rebuilding with younger, newer players.

Exterior of Shibe Park
Entrance Phila. Baseball Field, Shibe Park,
circa 1913.
By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s

Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics from 1909 to 1954, was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953 in honor of the team's longtime manager and owner. From 1938 to 1970 the park also served as home for the Philadelphia Phillies. It was torn down in 1976.

The "Grand Old Man of Baseball" retired from managing after the 1950 season. He holds the record among managers for total games at 7,878. He holds the all-time record for games won at 3,776, and because of his longevity, the all-time record for games lost as well—4,025.