By Father Gabe Costa
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In 1933, Major League Baseball showcased its first All Star Game in Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The selection for managers for each team was both natural and obvious: the universally respected Connie Mack skippered the American League team while the recently retired pugnacious John McGraw led the National League squad. The Junior Circuit prevailed in this “Game of the Century”, 4-2, on the strength of the first home run ever smashed in All Star competition, slugged by the “Player of the Century”, a certain George Herman Ruth.
Both Mack and McGraw were considered the Dean of Managers in their respective leagues.
Mack would finish up his managerial career with 53 seasons under his belt, three for which he led the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1890’s and fifty more years with his beloved Philadelphia Athletics. His final win-loss record would be 3731-3948, for a percentage of .486, while winning nine pennants and five World Series titles.
McGraw managed in the Big Leagues for 33 years, starting out with the “Old” Baltimore Orioles of both the National League in 1899 and then of the American League in both 1901 and part of 1902. During the 1902 season, he jumped leagues and went over to the New York Giants; he led the Jints for over thirty seasons. “Little Napoleon” would compile a record of 2763-1948, giving him a winning percentage of .586. He would win ten pennants and boast of three World Championships.
Mack and McGraw rank one-two with respect to victories on the all time list.
But some recent managers have been closing in on them…well, at least on Mugsy McGraw. Because a week or so ago, the Veterans Committee for the Hall of Fame selected Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre for admission into Cooperstown in the summer of 2014. These three great managers rank three, four and five on the Major League win list, behind only Mack and McGraw.
Tony LaRussa was born in 1944. He played in the Major Leagues for six years, and had 176 at-bats while hitting just under .200. As a manager, he led three clubs (the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals) for 33 years. His teams made it into post-season play 14 times, winning six pennants and three World Series flags. He is one of the few managers in history to win World titles in both leagues. He compiled a 2728-2365 win-loss record (.536) and was known to use computers and sabermetrics to assist him with his managerial decisions, taking more of a cerebral approach than some of his contemporaries.
Bobby Cox, who was born in 1941, played two years with the New York Yankees in the late 1960’s. As an infielder, he batted .225 in 628 at-bats during his career. His two stints managing the Braves were sandwiched around a four year hitch as the Toronto Blue Jays skipper. Cox compiled a 2504-2001 record (.556) and his teams appeared in post season play 16 times. Under his leadership the Atlanta Braves won five National League titles and one World Series crown. Cox was much loved and respected by his players. During his career he (along with his long time pitching coach, Leo Mazzone) developed a bevy of great pitchers, some of whom will eventually join him in the Hall of Fame.
Joe Torre was born in 1940. He played in the Major Leagues for 18 seasons, while batting nearly 7900 times and hitting .297. Selected for the All Star teams many times, Torre also won the National League Most Valuable Player Award and the loop’s batting title in 1971. Torre managed for nearly thirty campaigns for a number of teams, including the New York Mets, the Atlanta Braves, The St. Louis Cardinals, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. But it was with the New York Yankees where Torre gained his greatest fame. Winning four World Championships in five years (nearly five in six years!), Torre astounded the baseball world by producing championship after championship. Unmercifully referred to as “Clueless Joe” in the Press, when he first accepted the Yankees’ offer, he ultimately was transformed into Saint Joseph. In addition to the World Series’ rings, Torre’s teams won six pennants and appeared in post-season play fifteen times.
Congratulations Tony, Bobby and Joe…enjoy the company in Cooperstown…you deserve it!
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