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Connie Mack: The Turbulent and Triumphant Years, 1915–1931 by Norman L Macht (review)
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In Connie Mack: The Turbulent and Triumphant Years, 1915–1931, Norman Macht continues his extended biography of legendary manager Connie Mack. Beginning where his award winning Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball ended, he traces Mack’s life and career as the Philadelphia Athletics fell from winning the American League pennant in 1914 to finishing in last place consistently for nearly a decade before rising again and ultimately winning two out of three consecutive World Series championships. In this detailed second volume, Macht skillfully mixes asides with his narrative that reveal Mack’s personal life, his managerial style, his interaction with the media, and how external factors and events affected his team’s success. These windows to Mack’s public and private life display how baseball’s “Grand Old Man” cultivated relationships and dealt with adversity as the Athletics returned to championship form.

Even though Mack’s job occupied most of the year, he spent time with his children and grandchildren during the offseason, included his sons in the A’s organization, and upheld his role as patriarch of his extended family. Professionally, Macht describes Mack as a “players’ coach” who treated his players fairly. Often when players left his club, Mack corresponded with them and assisted with their careers when possible. Mack also developed a good connection with the press. Although he refused to discuss on-going contract negotiations, Mack frequently used the press as a means of communicating with his players especially giving praise to a player that needed encouragement. Macht credits Mack’s awareness of his public image and the good relations he sustained with the press as guards against criticism when the A’s experienced over ten years of substandard results.

In addition to the problems that arose in the day-to-day managing of the A’s, most of the adversity Mack confronted during this period came from external factors. For example, the Federal League attempted to compete with the National and American Leagues by offering inflated contracts to star players. Mack responded to this challenge by holding firm on contract negotiations, releasing highly paid veterans, and attempting to rebuild the A’s with younger talent. Unlike earlier in his career, this approach did not yield championships. In 1920, the game changed when Babe Ruth began his career with the New York Yankees. Ruth’s success with the Yankees brought about a new emphasis on home runs and slugging. After nearly a decade of finishing in last place, Mack shifted course by signing more veteran players, most notably Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, and allowing his younger players to gain experience. This strategic adjustment produced better results.

The most interesting part of Connie Mack: The Turbulent and Triumphant Years is how Macht illustrates Mack’s and the A’s connections to the evolution of the game during the 1920s. In this “Golden Age” of American sports, the Athletics’ owners countered the opening of the original Yankees Stadium in 1923 by renovating and expanding the seating capacity of Shibe Park. More seats allowed for higher income from ticket receipts and increased funds available to sign players. Sportswriters, such as Grantland Rice, created national sports heroes including Red Grange, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, and Connie Mack. Radio coverage of A’s games, especially in the late 1920s and early 1930s, expanded the popularity of the team and its respected manager. Towards the end of the book, Macht makes a compelling argument that over the three-season stretch from 1929 to 1931, the Athletics were a better team than the Yankees. He concedes that the Yankees were better over a ten-year period, but focusing on 1929 to 1931, the A’s should be considered among the best teams in baseball history.

Macht presents another thorough work on the life and career of Connie Mack. It gives an in depth account of the A’s season from 1915 to 1931, insight into Mack’s personal and professional lives, and places this portion of his career in historical context, but it lacks citations for source materials and does not have a bibliography. The addition of these reference aids would increase the work’s utility as a resource...

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