Longtime Major League manager Gene Mauch died Monday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 79.
Mauch managed 26 seasons in the big leagues, most recently for the California Angels, after which he retired from the game following the 1987 season. He drew his first assignment as a Major League manager when he was hired to take the helm of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1960 and stayed there through the 1968 season.
With expansion, Mauch took over as the first manager of the Montreal Expos and remained there through 1975. Mauch then moved on to the Twins for five seasons before the first of two stints with the Angels -- 1981-82 and 1985-87 -- with whom he won two divisional titles.
Mauch was known for his no-nonsense approach.
"I'm not the manager because I'm always right, but I'm always right because I'm the manager," he once said.
Angels general manager Bill Stoneman, who played for Mauch in Montreal, said there was no question who the boss was.
"He was about as intense a competitor as I've ever known and his knowledge of the game was as complete as anyone I've known," said Stoneman, who had lunch with Mauch and some former teammates while on vacation in Palm Springs last November. "He demanded 100 percent from everybody and guys that played for him knew what that meant. It wasn't just running to first base, but keeping your head in the game. It didn't matter if you were one of nine or on the bench."
Mauch's lengthy career vaulted him into the top 10 in many managerial categories. His 26 years are fifth in managerial service in Major League Baseball and he was sixth in games managed with 3,938. His 1,901 wins are 11th most. Mauch was named National League Manager of the Year in 1962, 1964 and 1973 and was the National League All-Star manager in 1965.
Unfortunately for Mauch, his career is largely marked by two collapses: one in the 1964 National League pennant race and another in the 1986 American League Championship Series.
Mauch's Phillies had a six-game lead with 12 games to go in 1964, but went 2-10 down the stretch to finish one game behind the Cardinals. Then in 1986, the Angels had a 3-1 series lead and were up 5-3 in the fifth game over the Red Sox with two out in the ninth before Dave Henderson hit a go-ahead two-run homer off Angels closer Donnie Moore. Don Baylor had also hit a two-run homer in the inning.
The Angels tied the game on an RBI single by Rob Wilfong, but the Red Sox went on to win Game 5 and won both games back in Boston to clinch the pennant.
That outcome was ironically reflected in another Mauch quote.
"Most one run games are lost, not won," Mauch said.
He believed, though, that it was the players who made the difference.
"I want everybody to feel he has a chance to get into a game when he comes to the ballpark," Mauch said. "I play guys when I want to so they'll be ready when I have to. I don't consider myself a motivator of players. I think it's an insult to a ballplayer to have to be motivated."
Born in Salina, Kan., on Nov. 18, 1925, Mauch was an all-city infielder for Fremont High School in Los Angeles. He began his professional baseball career as a shortstop in the Brooklyn Dodgers' organization in Durham, N.C., in 1943. Mauch played for six Major League clubs, including the Dodgers, Pirates, Cubs, Braves, Cardinals and Red Sox from 1944 to 1957, posting a .239 batting average in his career. At age 18, Mauch was the Dodgers' Opening Day shortstop in 1944.
Mauch accepted his first managerial post with the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association in 1953 at age 28. He managed Minneapolis of the American Association for two seasons (1958-59) before launching his Major League career in Philadelphia.
Mauch won 646 games with the Phillies, the most of the four teams he managed, but he posted his only winning record with the Angels, with whom he finished 379-332. Mauch's .533 winning percentage is the highest by an Angels' manager and his wins are third most in franchise history behind Bill Rigney (625 in nine seasons) and Mike Scioscia (489 at the beginning of 2005).
"I wish baseball had done more to let him know how terrific a manager he was," said Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa on Monday night. "I don't think he ever really got a lot of compliments for as good as he was."
Mauch is survived by his wife Jodie and daughter Leeanne.