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Gene William Mauch (November 18, 1925 – August 8, 2005) was an Americanmarker infielder and manager in Major League Baseball best known for managing four teams from 1960 to 1987. He is by far the winningest manager to have never won a league pennant (breaking the record formerly held by Jimmy Dykes), three times coming within a single victory. He managed the Philadelphia Phillies (1960-68), Montreal Expos (1969-75, Mauch was their inaugural manager), Minnesota Twins (1976-80), and California Angels (1981-82, 1985-87). His 1,902 career victories ranked 8th in major league history when he retired, and his 3,942 total games ranked 4th. His distinctive "small ball" style, which emphasized defense, speed and base-to-base tactics on offense rather than power hitting, drew praise for its focus on fundamentals of game play as well as criticism for its low scoring and failure to produce any championships.

Early life

Born in Salina, Kansasmarker, and raised in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, Mauch was a strong advocate of "small ball", the emphasis on offensive fundamentals such as bunting, sacrifice plays, and other ways of advancing runners, as opposed to trying to score runs primarily through slugging. His teams generally played in ballparks that were not friendly to home run hitters, which increased the effectiveness of this approach. While his teams occasionally featured power hitters such as Dick Allen, Rusty Staub and Reggie Jackson, they depended just as heavily on hitters adept at getting on base through contact hitting and patience at the plate, such as Rod Carew, and on strong defensive play by such stars as Bobby Grich and Bob Boone.

Renowned as an excellent manager of his bench, Mauch also had a reputation for provoking opposing teams with taunting, and of having a strong temperament that stressed himself and his teams excessively in the belief that he could win by sheer will (Halberstam, p.304-306).

Managed his nephew Roy Smalley during his tenure with the Minnesota Twins. Smalley's father, Roy Sr., married Mauch's sister, Jolene. Roy Sr. and Mauch grew up and played sandlot baseball together in Los Angeles, Californiamarker.

Playing career

Mauch had played parts of nine seasons from to with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Boston Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. In 304 games and 737 at-bats, Mauch hit .239, with 5 home runs and 62 RBIs, striking out 82 times.

He first became a manager at age 27 in , when the Braves named him the playing skipper of their AA Atlanta Crackers farm team in the Southern Association. From 1954-57, Mauch was strictly a player, first for the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels, then the Red Sox. In 1958-59, he managed the Bosox' AAA affiliate, the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association, reaching the Junior World Series each season, and winning the 1958 championship. He was slated to begin a third season as the Millers' boss in when, in mid-April, just prior to the start of the American Association's season, the Phillies chose him to replace Eddie Sawyer, who had resigned after the club's opening game of the regular season.

Managerial career

Philadelphia Phillies

Mauch came tantalizingly close to the World Series on three occasions. In late September , his Phillies had a record of 90-60, a 6½ game lead in the National League with 12 games left to play, and were starting a 7-game home stand. Mauch decided to start his two pitching aces, Jim Bunning and Chris Short, in 7 of the last 10 games, 6 of those starts on 2 days rest (all of which they lost). The Phillies faded, losing 10 games in a row before winning their last 2 games to finish one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals in a collapse infamously known as the "Phold." The other 2 near-World-Series cases came with the Angels.

California Angels

In , his Angels team won the American League's Western Division, and won the first two games, at home, in a best-of-5 ALCS against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Angels needed only one more victory to advance to their first World Series. Chances were great, since no team had ever lost the ALCS after winning the first two games. But Milwaukee came back to win all three remaining games (in Milwaukee) and the AL pennant. Some blamed Mauch, who chose to start Tommy John and Bruce Kison, winners of the first two games, in Games 4 and 5 on three days' rest each.

In , the Angels again won the Western title, and led in the fifth game of the now best-of-7 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, just one strike away from the Fall Classic, but Boston's Dave Henderson hit a home run off Angels reliever Donnie Moore to put the Red Sox ahead. The Angels tied the game in the bottom of the 9th, but the Red Sox went on to win the game in extra innings as well as the remaining two games in Boston to take the Series, and denied Mauch his last real chance to win a pennant and a World Series championship.

Mauch was suddenly forced to retire as manager of the Angels during spring training in at age 62 because of ill health, reportedly caused by his excessive cigarette smoking. The team's advance scout and Mauch's former player with the Phillies, Cookie Rojas, took command of the club. Seven years after his retirement as a manager, Mauch returned in as bench coach with the Kansas City Royals to assist Boone, who was in his first year as a big league skipper.

Losing streaks

Compounding his ill-starred reputation as a manager, he was the skipper during two of the longest losing streaks in Major League history. His Phillies lost 23 in a row, one short of the Major League record. His expansion Expos lost 20 in a row before finally ending it, as Mauch had to endure media reminders of his teams' previous loss streaks in 1961 and 1964.

Death

Mauch died at age 79 at Eisenhower Medical Centermarker in Rancho Miragemarker, Californiamarker from lung cancer.

Sources

  • Halberstam, David, October 1964, Villard Books (1994), ISBN 0-679-41560-2


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