Gene Mauch, baseball player & manager, Died at 79


Gene William Mauch died on August 8, 2005 at the age of 79, he was an American professional baseball player and manager.

Born in Salina, Kansas on November 18, 1925, and raised there and in Los Angeles, Mauch had played parts of nine seasons from 1944 to 1957 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Boston Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox.

At age 27 in 1953, the Braves named Mauch the player-manager of their Double-A Atlanta Crackers farm team in the Southern Association, his first managerial assignment.

His team finished 84–70, in third place, three games behind the Memphis Chickasaws, and fell in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual league champion Nashville Vols.

The combative Mauch was known for frequent skirmishes with the league’s umpires and later conceded he was too young for the assignment.

But seven years later, John J. Quinn, the Braves’ general manager who hired him for the Crackers’ job, would give him his first big-league managerial opportunity with the 1960 Phillies.

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.

In 1958, he managed the Red Sox’s Minneapolis Millers to a third-place regular-season finish before winning the American Association playoffs and Junior World Series.

The Millers repeated as AA champs the following year and, although they lost the Junior World Series to Havana, Mauch earned praise for his deft juggling of lineups after Boston recalled several regulars in the second half of the season.

The following season, with future Hall of Fame righthander Jim Bunning and slugger Dick Allen added to the roster, Mauch looked like a genius as he guided the Phillies to a 6½-game lead with only 12 contests left.

Then came the collapse – 10 straight losses that put the Phillies on the short list of memorable stretch-drive flops.

Though widely criticized for over-relying on his top two starters, Bunning and Chris Short, over the final weeks, Mauch remained unrepentant.

Victories in the last two games proved too little too late as St. Louis won the pennant, one game ahead of the Phillies and Reds. Somehow, Mauch was again voted the league’s Manager of the Year.

Mauch’s breaking point came when Griffith released reliever Mike Marshall in 1980 because of his union activities.

Mauch, otherwise no fan of the players association, resigned on Aug. 24, 1980, saying he would never again manage a non-contender.

Hired by Gene Autry as the Angels’ director of player personnel, he became, in effect, manager-in-waiting to replace Jim Fregosi. The inevitable took place in May 1981.

The first dividend came the following year, when the Angels won the American League West with a 93-69 record, Mauch’s best mark as a manager. But so did the first disappointment with California.