On September 15, 1931, the Philadelphia Athletics beat the Cleveland Indians to clinch their third consecutive American League pennant. The win was the ninth and final American League championship of legendary manager Connie Mack’s storied career.
Connie Mack was born Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy on December 22, 1862, in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. He made his debut as a player catching for the Washington franchise of the National League in 1886. In 1894, he became player-manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was fired two years later, after an 11-year career behind the plate with three different teams and three seasons as manager. In 1901, however, he returned to baseball as part of a team of investors who purchased the Philadelphia Athletics of Ban Johnson’s new American League, and then signed on as the team’s manager. For the next 50 seasons, Mack, tall, lean and dressed in a suit, was a fixture on the Athletics bench.
Mack would direct his players where to stand on the field with a rolled up program that became his trademark. He made a career of developing star players and then, once the players’ talents had peaked, selling their contracts for a profit. Under Mack, the Athletics won American League pennants in 1902 and 1905 and again in 1910 and 1911–when the team also won the World Series–as well as in 1913 and 1914. After the 1914 season, Mack shrewdly sold the contracts of his accomplished infield–including stars Eddie Collins, Frank “Home Run” Baker and Jack Barry–or $100,000, a fortune at the time. Mack then started over with new players and while his team finished at the bottom of the league every year from 1915 to 1921, Mack was in his element, finding and developing new talent.
By 1925, Mack’s tireless efforts had begun to pay off: Behind pitcher Lefty Grove, catcher Mickey Cochrane, first baseman Jimmie Foxx and outfielder Al Simmons–who led the league in hits that year–the A’s finished the season at 88-64, good for second place. Though the New York Yankees, led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, dominated between 1926 and 1928, Mack’s A’s were more than respectable, finishing well over .500. Finally, in 1929, the second A’s dynasty enjoyed their coming-out party, winning 104 games and finishing 18 games ahead of the formerly invincible Yanks. They went on to a 4-1 victory over the favored Cubs in the World Series, Mack’s first championship in 18 years. The A’s repeated the feat in 1930, when they finished eight games ahead of the Washington Senators for the American League pennant before beating the Cardinals in the World Series.
Although the A’s got off to a shaky start in 1931, they won their first of 17 games in a row on May 5. With Cochrane, Foxx and Simmons again leading the offense, the A’s pulled away from the competition by June and never looked back. On September 15, starting pitcher Eddie Rommel held the Cleveland Indians to just three runs, while the A’s racked up 14 to clinch the organization’s ninth pennant. The A’s went on to lose to the Cardinals in the World Series in seven games.
Although Mack went on to manage for another 19 seasons, the 1931 Athletics was his last truly great team. Mack retired in 1950 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. He died in 1956 at age 93.