Long before Al Davis was Al Davis, Connie Mack was Connie Mack. Though he didn’t have the sweet leather jump suits like Al, Mack remains the best-dressed manager in Major League history. For 50 years he controlled the Athletics and for 50 years he wore a suit in the dugout.
Now that the A’s are back in Philly, let’s take a trip with Mr. Mack down memory lane to where it all started.
Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy Sr. made his big-league debut as a player on Sept. 11, 1886 for the now defunct Washington Nationals. He hit a single to spark a three-run rally in Washington’s 4-3 win over the Phillies that day, but he was pretty turrible offensive catcher during his career. Or as Washington owner Walter F. Hewitt eloquently stated, “Mack don’t hit enough.”
Granted, it was a different game back then, but Mack batted .244 with 5 homers and 265 RBIs in 11 MLB seasons. But he was a shrewd character on defense. Mack was notorious for getting in the dome of the opposition and for slapping his glove to make foul-tip sounds and fool the umpire into calling outs. And you didn’t need two strikes for it to be an out back in the day.
Mack would eventually move on to the Buffalo Bisons in 1890 and the Pittsburgh Stogies in 1891. Check out the names of some his teammates on that ’91 squad: Tun Berger, Doggie Miller, Piggy Ward, Al Maul, Jocko Fields, Pop Corkhill, Silver King. That year, the Stogies became the Pirates after stealing 2B Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia Athletics. Mack would also suffer a Buster Posey-ian injury that season, trying to tag out Herman Long at home plate. From 94-96 he was a player-manager, but his contract wasn’t picked up and he was set free.
Five years later, he became the beast we all know today, taking over the Athletics. A tall, gaunt fellow — he’s listed at 6-1, 150 — Mack traded the costume and cap for a suit and a hat. According to Wikipedia, he pronounced Athletics, ‘Ath-uh-let-ics’ while writers used to refer to the team as the Mackmen.
A variant of the Philadelphia Athletics existed dating back to 1860 and they traveled far and wide to spread the game. Looks like they failed in England, where they played the Boston Red Stockings (engraved <— by Harper’s Weekly) in 1874. The Athletics finished third in the National Association that year, 4.5 games back of the New York Mutuals and 12 back of Boston.
But the Athletics wouldn’t be considered official until the American League was formed in ’01, the same year Mack started his 50-year reign. Nap Lajoie was an absolute beast that year for the Mackmen, winning the quadruple crown with a .426 average, 14 homers, 125 RBIs and 145 runs. The .426 mark still stands as the best in the game’s modern era.
On May 23 of that year, Lajoie was walked with the bases loaded by the Chicago White Stockings. He would hit for the cycle on July 30 in an 11-5 win over the Cleveland Blues.
The Mackmen would raise their first AL Pennant in 1902 — another eventful season — but there was no World Series due to contract disputes. On July 8, Danny Murphy shows up in the second inning and gets promptly put in the game to make his debut. He ends up going 6-for-6 with a grand slam off Cy Young.
On Aug. 13, Harry Davis stole second base and started raging that the opposing catcher didn’t throw to try and nab him. So Davis went backwards and stole first base on the next pitch. Later in the at-bat, Davis dashed for second again, this time drawing a throw and allowing teammate Dave Fultz to score from third. That’s just ridiculous.
Led by 26-game-winning LHP Eddie Plank, the Mackmen reached their first World Series in 1905. It proved to be a fluke, as the New York Giants won the series in five games. But perhaps the Mackmen won out in the long run, as the great-great grandfather of Stomper was born.
As the legend goes, Giants manager Muggsy McGraw said Mack and team owner Ben Shibe had a “white elephant” on their hands with the Athletics. So Mack gave McGraw a stuffed white elephant during the World Series and adopted it as the team logo.
Undoubtedly, the Mackmen peaked in the 1910s, when the $100,000 infield (a.k.a. the $2,349,286 infield in inflation-adjusted terms) took the league by storm. The combo of 1B Stuffy McInnis, 2B Eddie Collins, SS Jack Barry and 3B Home Run Baker guided the Mackmen to four AL pennants and three titles — 1910, 1911 and 1913 — and is still remembered as one of the greatest infields of all-time.
Mack would enjoy a resurgence more than a decade later, as the Mackmen would win three straight AL pennants from 1929-31. They won the 1929 World Series in epic fashion, pulling off comebacks in Game 4 and Game 5 to clinch.
The “Mack Attack” occurred in the seventh inning of Game 4, when the Athletics scored 10 runs to erase an 8-run deficit and win the game. Mule Haas had the big hit, an inside-the-park home run. In Game 5, Bing Miller gave the Athletics a walk-off RBI single to cap a three-run, ninth inning rally to win the title. The Mackmen repeated in 1930, giving Cornelius a hand full of championship rings.
The All-Time Philadelphia Mackmen
* – Denotes Hall of Famer
^ – Denotes ex-Golden Beer
The 1910 Philadelphia Mackmen – The First Champs
Be sure to visit the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society for more information.