Caption: A young Connie Mack, as he was pictured in the Milwaukee Sentinel prior to
opening day, 1897 1
One of my favorite books written about baseball is The Rise of Milwaukee Baseball: The Cream City From Midwestern Outpost to the Major Leagues, 1859-1901 by Dennis Pajot. I'd strongly recommend this to any baseball fans interested in the history of the game, and, seeing as this is the appropriate site, especially Milwaukee baseball fans. You'll learn a good deal about the city, as well. One thing I did not know prior to reading this book was how Connie Mack was hired in 1896 to manage the Western League Milwaukee Brewers minor league team, and did so for 4 seasons. Not known for his offense, he was considered to be one of the best defensive catchers during his playing career. As a manager in Pittsburgh, prior to his hiring in Milwaukee, his teams recorded a win-loss record of 149 and 134.
As for Milwaukee — In 1896, the Brewers had just come off a losing season season (62-78). Nearly every club (the exceptions being the two clubs that finished with worse records than them, Columbus and Grand Rapids) had walked all over them. While the team batted .298, they had poor pitching and defense (average Fielding Percentage of .928% – 5th in the Western League). Their manager, Larry Twitchell, resigned late in June, with second baseman Robert Glenalvin taking over for the rest of the season as a player-manager. There were even thoughts the team was going to be put up for sale, after some offers were made for the club, but they were put to rest by Matthew Killilea, president of the franchise.
After three losing seasons in the Western League, the club had apparently depreciated in value. The Daily News on September 11, 1896, gave opinions on the past practices and future of the club.
"The continuance of the policy of the past means disaster to the club, and a long setback to the national game in the Cream City. The baseball enthusiasm of Wisconsin's metropolis has been bounced to the limit, and unless some disposition is shown to give something in return for the money, baseball in Milwaukee will next year fall as flat as a stiff hat that has been sat down upon by Chief Cole of the Kirby*…. The warning has been given. The local press, unanimous in this direction, but faithfully reflects the public feeling among the patrons of the game, and next season Milwaukee will either have a ball game equal to its deserts or the game will be let severely alone." 2
*(The Kirby House was a hotel on the corner of Mason and Water Streets in Milwaukee. I'm having trouble finding out who Chief Cole was, but can only assume he was literally and/or metaphorically a large person. I have to say, one of the really fun things in this book is reading all of the old headlines and passages from Milwaukee papers).
Following the 1896 season, Connie Mack was not included in speculation when it came to the pool of managerial candidates discussed or written about by members of the local press, so, when he was named as Milwaukee's next 'skipper' on September 21st, it came as a surprise. The money involved, even more so. Mack was given a $3,000 contract – - no sports manager in Milwaukee had ever received one that high;
The Sporting Life wrote of Mack's salary, "This is a pretty steep salary for even so strong a minor league and it is safe to assert that no other manager in the circuit will receive so much salary" 3
Overall, things went well the first season. Under Mack in 1897, the team finished with a record of 85-51, which was good enough for only 4th place (But in a league that also had 8 teams). The 1898-1900* seasons had Milwaukee at 82-57 (3rd), 56-68 (6th) & 79-59 (2nd).4
The chapter on Connie Mack is just fascinating, as is the entire book. My intent was just to say "hey – he managed in Milwaukee before/isn't that cool?" but I'm hoping people will check out The Rise of Milwaukee Baseball. It's wonderful. In fact, even this spider that's crawling on it right now likes it…and, now I don't know where it went.
1[illustration] p 246 Pajot, Dennis. The Rise of Milwaukee Baseball: The Cream City From Midwestern Outpost to the Major Leagues, 1859-1901 McFarland, 2009. *It's kind of weird, but, in that sketch, Mack looks like Kevin Towers. No one should tell Towers that, because he's already got one of the biggest GM-egos ever. And Grit.
2 p 243 " "
3 p 244 " "
4 p 314 " "
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Pajot, Dennis. The Rise of Milwaukee Baseball: The Cream City From Midwestern Outpost to
the Major Leagues, 1859-1901 McFarland, 2009.
Society for American Baseball Research | (SABR site)