Fifty Years Of Ups And Downs
Over the next fifty years, the Athletics played in forty-three World Series games, winning five series, in 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, and 1930. They brought home nine American League pennants. The A's were dubbed a "white elephant" by McGraw after Mack bought top hitter Napoleon Lajoie and the team only came in fourth place in their first year. Mack showed both humor and resiliency by making the white elephant his team's emblem and leading it to an American League pennant the following year.
The Athletics' first great winning streak came in 1910-1914, when they won four pennants and three World Series, with Mack's "$100,000 infield" and pitcher Chief Bender. However, with the coming of World War I and in competition with the wealthy Federal League, Mack was forced to sell some of his best players, and the team fell to eighth and last places over the next seven seasons.
In 1925, at age sixty-two and basking in the Golden Age of sports, Mack rebuilt a powerful team. It included catcher Mickey Cochrane, pitchers Lefty Grove and Rube Walberg, hitter Al Simmons, and outfielder Mule Haas. The Athletics won two more World Series (1929 and 1930) and three more pennants. Mack stunned everyone by using Howard Ehmke as his starting pitcher in the 1929 World Series game against the Chicago Cubs. Ehmke, age thirty-five and a second-line pitcher, set a World Series record by striking out thirteen for a 3-1 win. Mack knew that Ehmke could pitch to the Cubs' right-handed hitters.
After his second winning streak, the Great Depression forced Mack to again sell off his best players, and the team dropped to the bottom of the league for the next twelve years. By 1940, Mack had acquired a majority interest in the A's from the Shibe family, and Mack's sons were team executives and coaches.
Known as the Grand Old Man of Baseball and the Tall Tactician, Mack always appeared in the dugout wearing a crisp blue suit and a high, starched white collar and tie. In his seventies, Mack was expected to retire, but he held on until 1950, nearing 88. However, by this time the Phillies had become Philadelphia's favored team. After the 1954 season, Mack's sons sold the Athletics to Chicago businessman Arnold M. Johnson. Mack signed the papers from his bed during an illness, supposedly unaware that Johnson planned to move the team to Kansas City, Missouri. Mack died fifteen months later, at age 93.
Connie Mack operated his baseball teams as a business, relying on their success for the support of his family. Thriving and surviving in an age when baseball lacked the facilities, transportation, financing, and media coverage of today, he is considered one of the great innovators of the game. Known for his kindness and his tact in dealing with players—he once paid off a pitcher's debts and got a shortstop paroled from prison—he endeared his team members into performing for him. Although sometimes viewed as a "pinchpenny" who broke apart championship teams, he operated one of the most highly paid teams in early baseball. Mack once wrote about entering baseball as a career: "Looking back at it, I can see every reason why I should not have taken the jump and only one reason why I did. Of course, I have made my living out of it, but more important than this, I love the game."