OAKLAND -- Storied Philadelphia A's manager Connie Mack induced shock within the baseball world when he settled on a Game 1 starter for the 1929 World Series.The natural choice would have been Lefty Grove, or George Earnshaw, or maybe Rube Walberg. But Howard Ehmke?The right-hander was nearing the end of
OAKLAND -- Storied Philadelphia A's manager Connie Mack induced shock within the baseball world when he settled on a Game 1 starter for the 1929 World Series.
The natural choice would have been Lefty Grove, or George Earnshaw, or maybe Rube Walberg. But Howard Ehmke?
The right-hander was nearing the end of his career, essentially hanging around as a washed-up spot starter when, as the story goes, he was called into Mack's office sometime in August and prepared to be informed of his release after being limited to just 11 starts in an injury-plagued campaign. Ehmke, though, had a different plan in mind.
He wanted to start the first game of the World Series. And Mack obliged.
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There was a catch, however. Mack informed him he would rest his sore arm for the final month of the season, his time to be used scouting the likely National League pennant-winning Cubs instead. Once that task was completed, he could ready for his Game 1 start.
They had a deal.
It's been rumored that this version of the "Tall Tactician's" story was something of a tall tale. Regardless, weeks of rest did wonders for the 35-year-old Ehmke. Facing a right-handed-heavy Cubs lineup, he struck out a then-World Series record 13 batters -- including Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson and Kiki Cuyler -- while twirling a complete game for a 3-1 victory in front of more than 50,000 fans at Wrigley Field.
It was a masterful performance, and renowned baseball writer and historian Bill James would later call Mack's tactical decision to start Ehmke "the most brilliant managerial stratagem in the history of baseball."
Ehmke's career, put to an end when he was released on May 30, 1930, was otherwise indistinguishable. He went 166-166 over 15 Major League seasons -- and a most memorable World Series triumph that set the tone for the A's, who won in five games. The win would be the last of his career.
Ehmke was also credited with developing the first canvas tarpaulin to cover baseball infields, opening his own business, Ehmke Manufacturing, in Philadelphia. The A's, who called Shibe Park home at the time, were the first team to make use of the tarpaulin.
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.