August 9, 2005
The Baseball Man
Gene Mauch was and always will be my favorite manager. He wasn't a character like Casey Stengel or Tommy Lasorda. Mauch always seemed to be wound a little tight, and he took losses hard-- real hard. And there were plenty of losses, 2,037 of them to be exact, which might have crumbled lesser men. In the early years of the Montreal franchise, sometimes the only cold comfort I had as a fan was in knowing that our manager was considered one of the smartest men in baseball. Of course, there were moments when it seemed that Mauch was intent on showing everybody just how smart he was, but there was no doubting that he was prepared for anything in every game he managed, and while he was with Montreal, I never heard him complain about what he had to work with. He seemed to thrive on the challenge.
Mauch took two Angels clubs to the playoffs in the '80s, but those teams featured superstars like Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, Bobby Grich and Fred Lynn, alongside other solid performers like Doug DeCinces, Brian Downing and Bob Boone. Perhaps his finest performance as a manager came in 1973, when he kept the Expos in the pennant chase up until the last weeks of the season. I remember the '73 Expos for the bench players: Boots Day, Pepe Frias and Larry Lintz-- a who's who of journeymen. The ace of the pitching staff down the stretch was Steve Rogers, a rookie who had been called up at midseason. The team's most important player was reliever Mike Marshall, who answered the bell in 92 games that season, amassing 179 innings, 14 wins and 31 saves. (A year later, Marshall would win the Cy Young Award for the NL champion Dodgers when he appeared in 106 games, a record that still stands.) It was a team that reflected the personality of its manager. They didn't get beat, they just ran out of games to play.
The baseball gods were not kind to Gene Mauch. He deserved a little luck for his years of dedication to the game, but it never really came his way. At times he made some eye-opening moves, and he would bristle when his strategy was questioned, but he never ducked the heat if the outcome was failure. Mauch had a tinkerer's love for baseball, and as crazy as it sounds, I think he was always trying to manage the perfect game. Who couldn't love a guy like that?
Thanks, Gene, for making the game interesting.
Posted by Andrew Torres at 6:38 AM
I was a Pittsburgh teenager when Mauch was in Montreal in the 70s. The Bucs played Montreal a lot, of course, and I would be with friends listening to KDKA radio with the "Voice of the Pirates" Bob Prince broadcasting those games. In my goofy chauvinistic teen mind, I couldn't understand why Canadiens would care about baseball. I saw Mauch as of course inferior to God Danny Murtaugh, manager of my Pirates, and wondered why Mauch would want to be part of these uncaring hockey-centered Canadiens. It's only much later in my life in So Cal in the 1980s that I understood Mauch's smarts. I enjoyed your post Andrew, and I too will miss Gene Mauch.
Posted by: CHK on August 12, 2005 4:16 PM