Tuesday, December 14, 2010

#489 Gene Mauch

#489 Gene Mauch
Considering that this set was released after the 1964 season, Gene Mauch has already taken a beating on this blog several times over. I'll make amends by examining his career as a whole now...

Fun facts about Gene Mauch:

-A native of Salina, KS, Gene signed with the Dodgers in 1943 and debuted the following year at the tender age of 18.

-Mauch served in World War II and played for six teams (Dodgers, Pirates, Cubs, Braves, Cardinals, and Red Sox) in nine seasons. He was a utility infielder and a career .239 hitter with a .333 on-base percentage, 5 home runs, and 62 RBI. In 1957, his final season in the majors, he hit .270 in a career-high 222 at-bats.

-He got his first crack at managing in 1953, when the Braves employed him as player-manager of their AA Atlanta Crackers. The 27-year-old batted .268 and slugged .432 in 340 at-bats and led his club to an 84-70 record, just three games out of first place in the Southern Association.

-Gene resumed his managing career in 1958 as the skipper of Boston's AAA Minneapolis Millers. He led the Millers to two straight American Association championships, posting a 177-138 record.

-The Phillies hired Mauch as manager in 1960, and he endured a pair of miserable seasons (including a 23-game losing streak and a 47-107 record in 1961) before delivering the City of Brotherly Love's first winning season in nearly a decade in his third year on the job.

-Philadelphia had six straight seasons above .500 under the young skipper, but fired him early in 1968 with the team standing still at 27-27. His overall record in Philly was 646-684, dragged down by his early struggles. His best season with the Phils was also the most painful, as the 1964 club won 92 games but missed out on the pennant by a single game. They spent 132 days in first place but were undone by a 10-game losing streak in late September that erased a 6.5 game lead. Mauch received the blame for leaning too heavily on Chris Short, Jim Bunning, and Dennis Bennett, continually starting his top three pitchers on short rest as the skid worsened.

-Gene was next tabbed to be the first manager of the Montreal Expos, a post he held for seven years (1969-1975). He never did quite get the team over the hump, peaking with 79 wins apiece in 1973 (when he won his only Manager of the Year award) and 1974. He had a 499-627 record north of the border.

-Again, Mauch was not unemployed for long. The Twins hired him in 1976 and saw the club improve from 76 wins to 85 in his first season. He led them to a winning record in three of his first four seasons, but never climbed past third place and was fired in late August of 1980 with a 54-71 record. That disappointing season dragged his Minnesota record to 378-394 in four-plus seasons.

-Gene's last stop as a manager was with the California Angels. He replaced Jim Fregosi 47 games into the 1981 season and one short year later guided his players to 93 wins and the American League West crown. They won the first two games of the best-of-five ALCS before losing three straight to the Brewers, at which point owner Gene Autry hastily fired Mauch. He came to regret the move as the Halos floundered under John McNamara, and Mauch was rehired in 1985. For an encore, he oversaw a second place finish (90-72) and then piloted the club to 92 wins and another ALCS appearance in 1986. Once again, his team was poised on the brink of the World Series when the bottom fell out. California led the Red Sox three-games-to-one and had a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning of Game Five when starter Mike Witt tired. Mauch made the right moves on paper, but closer Donnie Moore surrendered a go-ahead home run to Dave Henderson and Boston went on to win in 11 innings. The shellshocked Angels were blown out in Games Six and Seven, and the rest was history. The Angels tumbled to seventh place in 1987, and their manager retired the following spring due to health concerns. He had a 379-332 record with California and a 1902-2037 mark overall in 26 years as a big league manager. He's 12th all-time in managerial wins. Assuming that Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre will all soon be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Mauch would become the winningest skipper left out of Cooperstown.

-Mauch continued to work in the Angels front office for several years. He died of cancer in August 2005 at age 79.
#489 Gene Mauch (back)