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Legends On Deck

Two Legends Meet: John McGraw’s 1921 Giants vs. Connie Mack’s 1930 A’s

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Two of the game’s legendary managers were Connie Mack and John McGraw. In fact, Mack with 3,731 wins is ranked first all-time and McGraw with 2,761 wins is ranked second on the list wins all-time by managers. Mack would end up winning 5 World Series titles (1910,1911,1913,1929 and 1930 while McGraw would win 3 titles (1905,1921 and 1922). Connie Mack’s career with the A’s lasted from 1901 until 1950, undoubtedly helped by the fact he was either at one time or another part owner or full owner of the franchise. McGraw’s managerial career with the Giants began in 1902 and ended in 1932 a period of 31 years. Mack never managed in uniform and was a man of quiet dignity, while McGraw was a feisty SOB who would stop at nothing to win a baseball game. This would be a game between two of baseball’s master strategists.

The roster of the 1921 Giants squad would consist of catcher Frank Snyder. The infield would have George “High Pockets” Kelly at first base, Johnny Rawlings at second base, Dave Bancroft at shortstop and Frankie Frisch at the hot corner, third base. In the outfield for the Giants was George Burns in left field, Curt Walker in center field and Ross Youngs in right field. The Giant bench would be led by Irish Meusel who was the brother of future Yankee great Bob Meusel as well as another man who would become one of baseball’s legendary manager’s Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel.

The Giants pitching staff would be Art Nehf (20-10), Jesse Barnes (15-9), Fred Toney (18-11), Phil Douglas (15-10).

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There are many people in baseball who believe that the 1929-1930 Athletics team may be one of baseball’s greatest teams winning the World Series in 1929 and 1930, before Mack was forced to have a fire sale, selling all his star players. Philadelphia then became a proverbial cellar dweller for the latter half of Mack’s career. The 1930 squad would have, including Mack, six future players wo would later be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie “The Beast” Foxx, Al Simmons, Eddie Collins, Lefty Grove and Mack himself. The starting lineup for the team would have Cochrane catching, Foxx at first base, Max Bishop at second base and then on the left side of the infield, Joe Boley at shortstop and Jimmy Dykes at third base. In the outfield for Mack and the A’s were Simmons in left field, Mule Haas in centerfield and Bing Miller in right field.

The 1930 A’s pitchers included George Earnshaw (22-13), Lefty Grove (28-5), Rube Walberg (13-12) and Bill Shores (12-4).

The catcher’s position is a no brainer with little known Frank Snyder going up against future big-league manager, as well as future Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane. For the 1921 season, Snyder hit .320 with 8 home runs and 45 RBIs, not too bad a season. Cochrane though hit .357 with 10 home runs and 85 RBIs which certainly gives him an edge for this game.

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At first base for the 21 Giants would be George “High Pockets” Kelly a man who was later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1973 Kelly would hit .308 with 23 home runs and 122 runs batted in, certainly a great season by any standards. For the A’s they would have Jimmie “The Beast” Foxx who would hit 37 home runs and drive in 156 runs while hitting for a .356 average, numbers just a tad bit better that those of Kelly. At the end of his storied career Foxx would end up with 534 home runs and 1922 runs batted in and a .325 batting average, which of course garnered him a Hall of Fame induction in 1951. The great Yankee pitcher Vernon “Lefty” Gomez said of Foxx “He is so strong he has muscles in his hair. One time after a mammoth Foxx home run, Gomez was asked how fair the ball traveled. He replied he did not know but it took people almost 45 minutes to find the ball. Advantage here goes to the A’s with Foxx.

Moving on to the second base position for McGraw’s Giants, manning the base would be Johnny Rawlings. Rawlings was a tough gritty ball player just like his manager McGraw was. Rawlings would hit only one home run and drive in 30 RBIs while maintaining a .267 batting average. He would provide invaluable leadership to the Giants who would also go on to win the pennant and World Series in 1922 as well. For the A’s of 1930 at second base would be Max Bishop who would hit 10 home runs, drive in 38 runs and have a .252 batting average. Offensively, both men are close in numbers but, because of his on the field leadership the advantage here goes to Rawlings and the Giants.

One of the most important positions on the baseball field is the shortstop position as a team must be strong up the middle (catcher, second base, shortstop and centerfield. The Giants would have at shortstop Dave Bancroft. Bancroft would hit 6 home runs, 67 runs batted in and a batting average of .318 for the season. Bancroft would go on to a 16-year career in the majors, capped off by his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1971. Joe Boley was the shortstop for Connie Mack’s 1930 Athletics and would go on to a relatively short 6-year major league career. In 1930 Boley would hit 4 home runs with 55 RBIs and a .276 batting average. Advantage here goes to the 1921 Giants with Dave Bancroft.

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Moving over to the hot corner at third base for the Giants would be, “the Fordham Flash” Frankie Frisch. Frisch would in the course of his career be a 3-time selection as an All Star, be the NL MVP in 1931 and win a total of World Series titles in his career. He would also manage for 16 years in the major leagues, winning a World Series title in 1934 with the St Louis Cardinals, otherwise known as the “Gashouse Gang”. Frisch during the 1921 season hit 8 home runs with 100 runs batted in while maintaining a .341 batting average. Frisch would like his teammate on the left side of the diamond Bancroft would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (Frisch in 1947). This gave the Giants a very strong left-hand side of the diamond and like the shortstop position, the advantge will go to the Giants.

McGraw’s Giants would have George Burns in leftfield, Curt Walker in centerfield and Ross Youngs in rightfield. Burns would hit 4 home runs, drive in 61 runs, have a league leading 80 walks and hit .299 for the year. Curt Walker in centerfield, would hit .286 for the year with 3 home runs and 35 RBIs. Ross Youngs would, in 1921 hit 3 home runs, drive in 102 runs with a .327 batting average. Youngs tragically would pass away in October of 1927, only 30 years old. He would be elected by the Veteran’s Committee to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

The left fielder for the A’s in 1930 was Al “Bucketfoot” Simmons. He was so named “Bucketfoot for the way he stepped towards third base when he was at bat. Simmons would score a league leading 152 runs in 1930 while hitting 36 home runs and driving in 165 runs, with a batting average of .381 for the season. Simmons would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953 after hitting 307 home runs, driving in 1,828 runs, with a batting average of .334 for his 20-year career. Center field would be George William “Mule” Haas a 12- year veteran of the major leagues who in 1930 batted .299 with 2 home runs and 68 runs batted in. In right field for Mack and the A’s, Edmund John “Bing” Miller who would hit 9 home runs, drive in exactly 100 runs and hit for a .303 average during the 1930 season was the man that Mack penciled into the lineup. Both outfields are anchored by Hall of Famers (Youngs for the Giants and Simmons for the A’s) and both team’s other players put up some pretty good numbers, but the A’s outfield was just a tad bit better, so the advantage here would go to the Athletics.

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With such good players on both sides, the pitching staff would be an important part of the game to help try to keep the offense in tow. The Giants starters would consist of Art Nehf (20-10), Jessie Barnes (15-9), Fred Toney (18-11) and Phil Douglas (15-10). The Athletics starters would be George Earnshaw (22-13), Lefty Grove (28-5), Rube Walberg (13-12) and Bill Shores (12-4). In a one game series, the pitching matchup would probably be Art Nehf of the Giants against Lefty Grove of the Athletics. The advantage here goes to the A’s more so for who would relieve Grove if he were to be knocked out of the box. It would however be rare for Grove to be knocked out especially in a big money game like this one would be.

Given that two Hall of Fame managers would be opposing each other they would have to factor into the equation as well. McGraw was a pugnacious player capable of playing the infield or the outfield. He was a member of the infamous Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890’s who were great ballplayers but certainly no gentlemen given some of the tactics used on the diamond. The man known as “Mugsy” would go on to a career as a manager of the Orioles and Giants where he would win 3 World Series titles and have a record of 2,763 wins and 1,948 losses. Mack began his baseball career as a catcher in 1886. He was then a manager for 53 years, 50 with the Philadelphia Athletics where he would win 3,731 games and five World Series titles. He never managed in a uniform preferring a suit, white collared shirt and a derby. He would position his players by waving a scorecard and was a member of the initial induction class at Cooperstown in 1939 as was McGraw who was elected in 1937, the same year as Mack, 3 years after he passed away in 1934. Mack was nicknamed the “Tall Tactician.”

This would be a tight contest with two of the greatest managers who ever lived. It could go into extra innings and in the end on the strength of Mack, Grove and Jimmie Foxx, the winner of a one game series would be the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics.

 

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Kevin Larkin

Kevin Larkin has been going to minor league and major league baseball games since 1967. He has been to numerous major league and minor league parks and describes himself as a "baseball fan" who likes the Yankees. He enjoys researching, writing and reading about about baseball and will talk for hours on end about his favorite sport.
He is in love with the history of the game, having written three books about his beloved sport. They are "Baseball in the Bay State" a history of baseball in the state of Massachusetts. Then he wrote Gehrig:Game by Game, a history of all of the major league ballgames including All Star games and World Series games as well as regular season that the "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig played in. The third book "Baseball in the Berkshires" a history of baseball in Berkshire County co written with three others, Tom Daley, Jim Overmyer and Larry Moore. As a result of this book Larkin and the other three gentlemen have put together a museum exhibit that is now permanently housed at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesboro Massachusetts.
Larkin also does fact checking and writing for the Society for American Baseball Research or SABR and has had numerous articles published there as well.
He lives in Great Barrington Massachusetts, in the heart of Red Sox country and is involved in a number of projects. He also is a security guard at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington after having been a police officer for 24 years in his home town