February 8, 2012 by Matt Musico
February 8th, 1956: At the age of 93, Connie Mack dies in Philadelphia. The ‘Tall Tactician’ is the major league’s all-time winningest (3731 victories) and losingest (3948 defeats) manager.
Even though his picture makes him look more like a businessman than one of the most legendary managers in baseball history, Connie Mack was the definition of baseball at the beginning of the 20th century. What most people know is that he did also play professional baseball for ten years before he decided to end his playing career and start managing. After a short stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1894-1896, he took the reins of the start up Philadelphia Athletics organization for the team’s first 50 seasons in existence, from 1901-1950.
Anyone who has the most wins and the most losses in history is bound to have quite an interesting career. In addition to both of those records, no other skipper in Major League Baseball has managed more games than Mack (7,755). The all-time top-ten list for most managerial wins are follows:
1. Connie Mack: 3,731
2. John McGraw: 2,763
3. Tony LaRussa: 2,728
4. Bobby Cox: 2,504
5. Joe Torre: 2,326
6. Sparky Anderson: 2,194
7. Bucky Harris: 2,158
8. Joe McCarthy: 2,125
9. Walter Alston: 2,040
10. Leo Durocher: 2,008
Even though no manager spent more time heading a baseball team than Mack, the fact that no other manager is even within 1,000 wins of his total is quite impressive. He led the Athletics to nine American League pennants (second highest amount in league history) and won five World Series titles; he was the first manager to win more than three championships and was also the first to win consecutive World Series titles on separate occasions. From 1901-1935, Mack was part owner of the Athletics and become the full owner from 1936-1954. When I first saw Connie Mack’s managerial record and noticed that he was under .500 for his career, it was suspicious to me and made me wonder exactly what could have led to that happening.
After a little research, I found my answer; even though he won nine pennants and 5 championships, his teams also ended up in last place 17 different times. Why? Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same; due to financial constraints and struggles, Mack was forced to continually tear down his successful teams and rebuild from the bottom up. If you ask me, I think that grows the legend of Connie Mack quite a bit. It’s hard enough to find the right players and build a team to win one championship, let alone enjoy a sustained run at excellence. However, he had to do that time and time again, and was able to be successful. I’m sure being at least part owner throughout his entire tenure as manager made it easier for him to have patience with the rebuilding process.
Either way, this is a sad day in baseball history, yet a great day because we have the opportunity to celebrate a person and a manager that we will never be able to experience in our lifetimes. After Terry Francona ended his tenure as Red Sox manager, analysts said that his time was up in Boston; he was only there for eight years! Multiply those eight years by seven and you have the approximate time Connie Mack was in charge of the Philadelphia A’s. I would love to see a manager stay around for that long today, but with the media and fans putting on a full court press from every way possible, there is no way any man would want to stay in charge for that long. Baseball today is fantastic, but this is just another reason why the game was more pure back in its earlier days; we didn’t have to worry about what story the media was going to write up about any happenings; the game was just a game. Simpler times.