Posts Tagged ‘Ben Shibe’

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Connie Mack

November 20, 2014
Connie Mack as a player

Connie Mack as a player

1. He was born Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy in Massachusetts in 1862. His more well know name is a shortening of both his first and last names.

2. He was a Major League catcher between 1886 and 1896, playing he entire career in the National League, except for a stint in the 1890 Player’s League. He hit all of .245 with five home runs.

3. He was player manager at Pittsburgh between 1894 and 1896 inclusive. After retiring he managed Milwaukee in the Western League between 1897 and 1899 inclusive.

4. In 1901 he was made manager of the Philadelphia team (called the Athletics after a previous team) in the newly formed American League. Almost immediately he moved to gain at least partial ownership of the team. He took 25% ownership in 1901 with sporting goods mogul Ben Shibe taking 50% and a pair of local sports writers owning the other 25%. In 1913 he bought out the two writers and became co-owner with Shibe. He handled baseball operations and Shibe the business side of the team. In 1937 he became majority owner of the A’s.

5. He was known as an excellent judge of talent and for judicious use of his catchers despite a limited roster.

6. His Athletics won the second American League pennant in 1902, then participated in the second World Series in 1905 (there was no Series in 1902). They lost in five games to the New York Giants.

7. During the years 1910 through 1914 the A’s won pennants in 1910, 1911, 1913, and 1914. They won the World Series in the first three of those seasons.

8. Due to financial considerations Mack lost most of his quality players in 1915, had a disastrous 1916 (36-117 record), then began rebuilding.

9. Between 1929 and 1931 the A’s won three more pennants and the World Series in both 1929 and 1930. That made Mack the only manager to win back-to-back World Series’ twice. Both Casey Stengel (5 in a row) and Joe McCarthy (4 in a row) won at least three in a row later.

10. Again in financial trouble, he sold off his best players and never recovered. After 1933 his team never finished in the first division again. The team also suffered because Mack failed to create a “farm” system until late and did a poor job in signing quality Negro League players once the Major Leagues integrated beginning in 1947.

11. By 1950 he was in failing health and although still manager, was having his coaches make most of the on field decisions.

12. He retired after the 1950 season with 3731 wins, 3948 losses (both records), nine pennants, and five World Championships (not counting his 1902 championship–a year without a  World Series). He died in 1956.

13. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937.

Mack's grave

Mack’s grave



A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Al Reach

September 12, 2013
Al Reach while playing with the Athletic of Philadelphia

Al Reach while playing with the Athletic of Philadelphia

1. Alfred James Reach was born in London in 1840, but came to the US as a child. He lived in New York.

2. Between 1861 and 1864 he played second base for the Eckford of Brooklyn, one of the three premier Brooklyn teams of the era (the Atlantic and Excelsior were the others).

3. In 1865 he joined the Athletic of Philadelphia as their second baseman. He was paid $25 for “expenses” when he joined the Athletic. Sources speculate that he was the first professional player (others choose different players as the first professional).

4. He led the National Association of Base Ball Players in runs scored in 1868 and finished second in 1867.

5. In 1871, the initial year of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, he hit .353 and helped lead the Athletic to the first championship.

6. His career tailed off from there, ending after 1875 with a .247 average, no home runs, 89 runs scored, and an OPS+ of 73.

7. In 1874, while still active, he opened a sporting goods store. By 1883 it was the largest sporting goods store in the US.

8. In 1883 the Worcester, Massachusetts team moved to Philadelphia. Reach purchased the team (now the Phillies) and ran it through 1899. In 1890 he served as manager for 11 games (he went 4-7).

9. He became a millionaire and sold his firm to the A.J. Spaulding Co. in 1892. Spaulding ran both companies, but kept the name of each, thus managing to monopolize the sporting goods world while not running afoul of the anti-trust laws being touted at the time.

10. After 1900, the company produced the official American League baseball while the Spaulding Company produced the official National League ball. Both were made by the same people in the same factory.

11. The Reach Guide was the official publication for the American Association from 1883 through 1892 (when the Association folded), then was semi-official until 1902, when it became the official American League publication. It remained official through 1939. Reach’s company published the Guide until 1927 when Wright and Ditson (the company run by former star and Al Reach opponent, George Wright) took up publication.

12. Al Reach’s brother Bob played a couple of years in the National Association, didn’t do much, but did invent an improved catcher’s mask that Reach marketed. Reach’s son George helped Ben and Daniel Shibe perfect the modern cork-centered baseball.

13. Al Reach died in New Jersey in 1928. In 2012, he appeared on the Veteran’s Committee Hall of Fame ballot. He was not elected.

White Elephant

February 23, 2010

Ever wonder why the A’s occasionally wear an elephant on their uniforms? The story goes back to the founding of the American League and involves John McGraw, Connie Mack, Ban Johnson, and an old expression you don’t hear much anymore.

When the American League was formed in 1901, league president Ban Johnson wanted a team in Philapdelphia. Ben Shibe, who is supposed to be the man who invented the machine that allowed for standardizing baseballs, agreed to take on the Philadelphia franchise along with old time catcher Connie Mack as a partner. Shibe ran the business end of the enterprise and Mack ran the team (that changed quickly with Mack in control of both). John McGraw was a friend of Mack’s and a man who absolutely hated Ban Johnson. When asked about Mack taking over the new team in Philadelphia, McGraw told the press he thought Mack had gotten a “white elephant.”

You don’t hear that phrase anymore. I remember my grandparents using it, but not so much from my parents. I don’t use it at all. A ‘white elephant’ is something that has a cost way out of step with its worth and that can’t be gotten rid of easily. In other words, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. McGraw had just told Mack, in front of the entire baseball world, his team wasn’t worth having.

Mack took it well, he had a better sense of humor than McGraw (well, most people who have ever lived had a better sense of humor than John J. McGraw). He had the white elephant sewn onto the A’s uniforms where it has stayed for most of the team’s history (Charlie Finley not withstanding). The two teams met in the 1905 World Series and Mack presented McGraw with a stuffed white elephant prior to game one. McGraw accepted it (and as far as I can determine didn’t smile) as the gag it was meant to be, then went out and won the series 4 games to 1.

Mack did manage to finally win the contest with McGraw. They faced each other in the first All Star Game and Mack won. More importantly, they faced each other in the 1911 and 1913 World Series. The A’s won both. If you look at pictures of the two World Series, you’ll find the white elephant on the A’s uniforms. Game, set, match.