Phillies alumni: 1964 manager Gene Mauch

April 18th, 2024

Known as the “Little General” or simply “Number 4," Gene Mauch brought life to the Phillies as manager. After a slow start the Phillies began posting winning seasons, something that hadn’t happened in nearly a decade. Unfortunately, one of the greatest managers in franchise history is remembered for a 10-game losing streak of 60 years ago.

Mauch arrived in Philly in 1960. Managing the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers, GM John Quinn quickly hired him after Eddie Sawyer resigned after Opening Day, saying, "I'm 49 years old and I want to live to be 50.” Coach Andy Cohen managed the second game and Mauch took over for the third game, April 16, a 13-3 thumping by the Milwaukee Braves at Connie Mack Stadium. At age 34, he was the youngest manager in the Majors.

It was one of 95 losses that year, toppled by 107 the next season, which included a Major League record 23-game losing streak. In 1962, the Phils had their first winning season (81-80) since 1953. It started a string of winning seasons that ended in 1968, when he was replaced after a 27-27 start. The Phils' next winning season was 1975.

Little known fact: Mauch was the first Phillies manager to have three straight winning seasons since Pat Moran (1915-17).

His final Phillies numbers: 1,331 games, 646 wins, 684 losses (all club records at the time).

Managerial Style
A scrappy competitor as a player, that trait continued as a manager. He had a brilliant baseball mind, a strategist often credited with starting the double player switch. He was constantly looking for an edge, including riding enemy players. He studied the tendencies of opposing pitchers and hitters. Today, clubs have massive staffs analyzing the game through multiple cameras and computers. His mind was a computer that never shut down.

Small ball was a style. Sacrifice bunts early in a game. Remember him saying, “Sometimes you bunt for an early lead but wind up getting six.” Hit-and-runs, double switches, platooning, defensive substitutions, and bullpen matchups were all in play.

Bobby Wine played for Mauch more than anyone, nine seasons in Philly and four in Montreal. “He was ahead of his time when it came to managing a game. It was almost like a game of chess. I remember the first time I was involved in a double switch. Not sure of the year or the pitcher. He goes to the mound, takes the ball, motions to the bullpen and points to me to come to the mound. He says, ‘You’re out,’ pointing to the dugout. I said, ‘Why me? I didn’t give up the home run.’ He just glared at me.”

He moved the Phillies bullpen from left field to right at Connie Mack Stadium. The tall wall in right field included corrugated metal that could create odd bounces. Bullpen coach Bob Oldis was armed with a white towel. If a ball was going to hit the wall, Oldis would waive the towel, a signal for the batter and coaches.

He knew the rule book better than anyone. Skirmishes with umpires were frequent. When he argued the veins in his neck ballooned. In his nine Phillies seasons, he had 23 ejections. One time, Jim Bunning wanted a different ball. The home-plate umpire refused. Mauch dashed to the mound, took the ball, spiked it with his right foot and flipped the damaged ball to the umpire. Bunning got a new ball. Mauch got tossed.

The Streak
Leading by six and one-half games with 12 to go, the Phillies went into a 10-game losing streak. A pennant for the first time since 1950 painfully vanished.

“For 150 games I could stumble over home plate, and it would turn into two runs,” Mauch said.

For those 150 games, everything turned out right. For the next 10 games, everything went wrong.

The spin began with Cincinnati rookie Chico Ruiz stealing home with two out in the sixth inning on an 0-1 pitch to future Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson on September 21. Tough 1-0 defeat. Two games earlier they lost on a steal of home against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, 4-3, in 16 innings.

The offense, pitching and defense struggled in the fatal phold. Mauch twice started his two best pitchers (Jim Bunning and Chris Short) on two day’s rest. He figured one win out of those four starts would be a streak stopper. The failed strategy haunted Mauch the rest of his life.

“He confused us,” Dallas Green wrote in his book, "The Mouth That Roared." Green was a reliever that season. “All season, he screamed, yelled and hollered and threw things around the clubhouse, then during the [losing streak], he never had a tirade. We were all waiting for the volcano to erupt, and it never did. Maybe we were waiting for him to save the season.”

A second-place finish and 92 wins, most in club history since 94 in 1899, were not comforting.

Post Philly
After being let go by the Phillies, the expansion Montreal Expos quickly signed him as their manager. Mauch’s club played the final game at Connie Stadium (1970) and first at Veterans Stadium (1971). The Phillies won both.

His 26-year managerial career also included the Minnesota Twins (1976-80) and California Angels (1981-82, 1985-87). Angels owner Gene Autry fired him after the 1982 season and then rehired him in 1985. In both 1982 and 1986, he won a division title. Each time he came within one win of reaching the World Series. Two more crushing finishes for the man who managed 3,942 major league games.

Because of health issues, Mauch retired after the 1987 season. His replacement was coach Cookie Rojas, a former player on the Phillies.

His first managerial position was as player-manager of the Double-A Atlanta Crackers in 1953 at age 27. Quinn, then the Milwaukee Braves' GM, hired him for that job.

Playing Career
Signed at age 17 by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1943, he played nine years in the Majors -- mostly as a second baseman -- with Brooklyn, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Boston Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. 1945 was spent in the military service. He had a lifetime average of .239 in 304 games.

As an 18-year-old, his debut came with the Dodgers on Opening Day, a 4-1 loss. Batting eighth and playing shortstop, he was hitless in two at-bats before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the 6th inning.

That game was against the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium, April 18, 1944. Same ballpark where an exciting season ended in the agony of defeat 20 years later.