There is a fellow named Si Schaltz who grew up in Philadelphia in a day when life was simple. At least, Si says, it was in his neighborhood. As a kid, you always knew where you stood: you were either Irish, a Democrat and a Phillies fan, or you were Jewish, Republican and an Athletics fan. Republicans outnumber Democrats in Philadelphia, so things went well for the Athletics.
Things went well for half a century, then Connie Mack got old. In three different eras he built clubs that are ranked today among the greatest that ever played baseball. For two decades after his last good team faded, the Athletics remained an institution because they were Connie's. Then in 1951 he relinquished active control, and the A's became merely a very bad ball club. Last week the A's almost went to Kansas City. This week they were saved—if that's the right word—for Philadelphia. But they are still a very bad ball club.
Connie Mack had some dreadful ball clubs and never pretended otherwise. You might wonder sometimes how he even endured it, for this courtly, kindly, priestly old man was as fierce a competitor as John McGraw or Joe McCarthy or Leo Durocher. He could explain that. He'd always been able to dish it out, and in 1921 he taught himself to take it.
That year the Athletics were running last for the seventh consecutive season. They went to St. Louis and swept a series with the Browns and headed for Chicago, where the White Sox were in a desperate slump. Connie was confident his team would take over seventh place.
The Athletics lost every game in Chicago. When they went to Cleveland, Connie couldn't go along. He had a nervous breakdown. "I told myself after that," he says, "that I'd never let it happen again. I'd always be ready to take the bad with the good."
Connie Mack is in his ninety-second year now, and the chances are he still frets when the team makes a trip without him.
Nothing else made him so angry as to be treated as old or infirm. A dozen or so years ago when the Athletics were training in California they played an exhibition in San Quentin. With several companions, Connie rode up from San Francisco in a limousine on a nippy morning. Somebody suggested rolling up the window lest he take a chill.
"Dammit to hell!" Connie exploded. For many years baseball writers have piously pretended that his strongest expletive was "Goodness Gracious," but he could always cuss a mule-skinner to shame if the mood was on him.
"Dammit to hell!" he hollered. "I'm all right, everybody's always worrying about me. Mrs. Mack says, 'Con, wear your rubbers. Con, put on your overcoat.' So I put on my damn rubbers and I put on my damn overcoat and I go out to the drugstore to get medicine for her."
The car window stayed open.