The Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack in His Final Years, 1932-1956

The Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack in His Final Years, 1932-1956

The Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack in His Final Years, 1932-1956

The Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack in His Final Years, 1932-1956


In The Grand Old Man of Baseball, Norman L. Macht chronicles Connie Mack's tumultuous final two decades in baseball. After Mack had built one of baseball's greatest teams, the 1929-31 Philadelphia Athletics, the Depression that followed the stock market crash fundamentally reshaped Mack's legacy as his team struggled on the field and at the gate. Among the challenges Mack faced: a sharp drop in attendance that forced him to sell his star players; the rise of the farm system, which he was slow to adopt; the opposition of other owners to night games, which he favored; the postwar integration of baseball, which he initially opposed; a split between the team's heirs (Mack's sons Roy and Earle on one side, their half brother Connie Jr. on the other) that tore apart the family and forced Mack to choose--unwisely--between them; and, finally, the disastrous 1951-54 seasons in which Roy and Earle ran the club to the brink of bankruptcy.
By now aged and mentally infirm, Mack watched in bewilderment as the business he had built fell apart. Broke and in debt, Roy and Earle feuded over the sale of the team. In a never-before-revealed series of maneuvers, Roy double-crossed his father and brother and the team was sold and moved to Kansas City in 1954. In Macht's third volume of his trilogy on Mack, he describes the physical, mental, and financial decline of Mack's final years, which unfortunately became a classic American tragedy.


The wheels fell off the world in 1932. Early signs of global economic recovery in the spring of ’31 had been erased by social and financial chaos in Europe. Disarmament talks were going nowhere. Europe was in turmoil, its governments collapsing. Germans who had money were shipping it out of their country as Hitler’s brownshirts destroyed people’s lives and the nation’s stability.

A devastating drought in the American southwest was in its second year. Farmers who could grow a crop couldn’t sell what they grew and couldn’t find any place to store it. There was so much old surplus wheat, corn, and cotton that it was priced by the penny a bushel or bale. By the end of the year one of every four farmers would lose his land. Panic drove people who heard that banks were closing to rush to their local banks and withdraw all their money—the average account had $140 in it—causing more banks to close, cutting off loans to farmers, shops, and businesses. People were putting their money into mattresses—not investing in mattress makers but stuffing it into the bedding they slept on.

Gold flowed out of the United States, much of it shipped out by wealthy Americans who had no faith in the dollar. Nineteen countries, including England, went off the gold standard, and America was on the brink of doing the same. Currencies fluctuated wildly. Old war loans made by America to its allies went unpaid. Nobody knew how to foreclose on a foreign country.

Federal revenues nosedived to less than half the budgeted expenses. Income in Pennsylvania had topped $2 billion in 1929; by 1932 it was less than half. Net income reported by Pennsylvania residents who earned enough to file 1932 tax returns averaged $3,006, the lowest since 1917. Taxes went up. The Commerce Department reported that anyone lucky enough to have a . . .

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