There is a fellow named Si Schaltz who grew up in Philadelphia in a day when life was simple. At least, Si says, it was in his neighborhood. As a kid, you always knew where you stood: you were either Irish, a Democrat and a Phillies fan, or you were Jewish, Republican and an Athletics fan. Republicans outnumber Democrats in Philadelphia, so things went well for the Athletics.
Things went well for half a century, then Connie Mack got old. In three different eras he built clubs that are ranked today among the greatest that ever played baseball. For two decades after his last good team faded, the Athletics remained an institution because they were Connie's. Then in 1951 he relinquished active control, and the A's became merely a very bad ball club. Last week the A's almost went to Kansas City. This week they were saved—if that's the right word—for Philadelphia. But they are still a very bad ball club.
Connie Mack had some dreadful ball clubs and never pretended otherwise. You might wonder sometimes how he even endured it, for this courtly, kindly, priestly old man was as fierce a competitor as John McGraw or Joe McCarthy or Leo Durocher. He could explain that. He'd always been able to dish it out, and in 1921 he taught himself to take it.
That year the Athletics were running last for the seventh consecutive season. They went to St. Louis and swept a series with the Browns and headed for Chicago, where the White Sox were in a desperate slump. Connie was confident his team would take over seventh place.
The Athletics lost every game in Chicago. When they went to Cleveland, Connie couldn't go along. He had a nervous breakdown. "I told myself after that," he says, "that I'd never let it happen again. I'd always be ready to take the bad with the good."
Connie Mack is in his ninety-second year now, and the chances are he still frets when the team makes a trip without him.
Nothing else made him so angry as to be treated as old or infirm. A dozen or so years ago when the Athletics were training in California they played an exhibition in San Quentin. With several companions, Connie rode up from San Francisco in a limousine on a nippy morning. Somebody suggested rolling up the window lest he take a chill.
"Dammit to hell!" Connie exploded. For many years baseball writers have piously pretended that his strongest expletive was "Goodness Gracious," but he could always cuss a mule-skinner to shame if the mood was on him.
"Dammit to hell!" he hollered. "I'm all right, everybody's always worrying about me. Mrs. Mack says, 'Con, wear your rubbers. Con, put on your overcoat.' So I put on my damn rubbers and I put on my damn overcoat and I go out to the drugstore to get medicine for her."
The car window stayed open.
Connie could be generous and domineering and obstinate and considerate and tough as an old boot in a business transaction and patient beyond belief. Into what would be a doddering age for other men, he could out-think any adversary in his sleep.
One of his terrible wartime teams was leading Cleveland when the Indians put runners on second and third base with one out. When the Indian on third was trapped in a run-up, Lou Boudreau, the runner on second, advanced to third and waited while Hal Wagner, the Philadelphia catcher, chased the other man back to the bag. Finding the base occupied by his manager, the runner trotted on out the left field line, where Wagner tagged him, having first tagged Boudreau.
The Athletics made a perfunctory argument for a double play but the umpires called Boudreau safe since he was standing on the base when tagged. Then Connie poked his head out of the dugout and beckoned. Joe Rue, the umpire, scampered in obediently.
"Er, Mr. Grieve," Connie began politely, although Willie Grieve, another umpire, wasn't near Cleveland that night. "Mr. Grieve, don't you think that the moment that other man stepped back of third base, Boudreau was closer to the plate and therefore is out for passing another runner? Then the other man was tagged in left field, so they're both out."
It was so ruled. In the whole ball park, only Connie could get the play right and the umpire's name wrong.
KANSAS CITY'S BID for the Athletics was dramatized by this full-page ad published in the Kansas City Star by the Helzberg jewelry chain.
...and maybe I shouldn't be asking but...
please bring the A's Kansas City