Tuesday, April 16, 2013

#531 - Gene Mauch/Expos Field Leaders



Gene Mauch has the Sparky Anderson old thing going on. In this photo he is about 48 years old. But he has a fat smile on his face and he should as he was about to lead the Expos to their best season for a few years, one in which they would contend until a late-September slump took them out of the running for a division title. He used the NL’s best OBA to run his “small-ball” theme pretty well and if he had one more dependable starter he could have won the whole thing. What he did win was the NL’s Manager of the Year award. The nice thing about the ’73 fade was that it wasn’t his fault. That probably made it a lot easier to bear than that one in ’64.

Gene Mauch was born in Kansas but relocated to California as a kid and played middle infield and pitched while attending Fremont High in LA.. He was signed by the Dodgers in ’43 just out of school and that summer after hitting .322 in B ball put in a few games in Double A. Shortly after starting at Brooklyn and then hitting .283 in Double A he enlisted, spending the balance of that year and all of ’45 in WW II. He returned in ’46 to put in a full season at shortstop in Triple A, hitting .248 with a .359 OBA, but with tons of errors. After the season he was traded to Pittsburgh where he moved to second and after hitting .300 the first half of the season was promoted. He spent the balance of the season hitting .300 in a few games of infield back-up. After a flip back to Brooklyn (with Billy Cox and Preacher Roe) a slow start as a reserve got him to the Cubs on waivers. The rest of that year and the next he got 300 at bats worth of back-up infield work. Prior to the ’50 season he was traded to the Braves where he did a season-plus up top and also hit over .300 in Triple A in ’51 and ’52. In ’53 he went down to Double A as a player/manager and went 84-70 and made the playoffs. He then returned to Chicago where he played for three seasons in the PCL, hitting well each year and topping out with a .348/20/84 season in ’56. Those numbers turned on the Red Sox who purchased Gene for the stretch run – he hit .325 – and then kept him up top for all of ’57 where he split time at second and had his biggest year at that level, hitting .270 with 28 RBI’s in 222 at bats. He was then released as a player and went to Triple A to manage for the Sox and in both ’58 and ’59 took his team to its championship series, winning the whole thing the second year. He turned in some time as a player there also and finished that role after the ’59 season. Gene hit .239 in the majors in just over 300 games and .291 in the minors with a .385 OBA.

Mauch was planning on returning to the Boston organization for the ’60 season but instead got hired into the Philadelphia one as a coach up top and took over the team two games into the season. The first two seasons were pretty tough but by ’62 Gene and management had built a pretty good nucleus around outfielders Johnny Callison and Tony Gonzales and that season he won his first Manager of the Year award. Then with the arrival of Chris Short and Jim Bunning on the mound and rookie slugger Dick Allen in a couple years he had the team in first place with a bit over a week to go in September ’64. But the Phillies famously lost ten straight as Gene opted to go with his two above mound starters almost exclusively; three straight losses wereto the surging Cardinals who went on to win the Series. Still Gene again won Manager of the Year again and kept the Phillies on the plus side of the win column even though the talent got scarcer and there were all sorts of fallouts between him and Allen. He was canned midway through the ’68 season and was then hired to manage the new Expos. Again the going was rough initially and while he never got to a winning record with Montreal he did get them to a respectable place pretty quickly by building around a good core and playing smart fundamental ball. He lasted with Montreal through ’75 and then was hired to run Minnesota. There he kept the team competitive even after Rod Carew’s departure, until he was let go during the ‘80 season. A year later he was following Jim Fregosi in managing the Angels and in ’82 he won his first divsion title. He was released after losing to the Brewers in the playoffs and was then hired back for ’85 when owner Gene Autry realized he acted too hastily. Again within a year Gene had California on the playoff track, winning his second division title. But reprising an old theme, after his team had its his opponent on the ropes, the Angels allowed Boston to recover to win the playoffs. Gene managed the Angels one more season and then, facing health problems, retired from managing. He was a big smoker and would have lung problems the rest of his life. Gene went 1,902-2,037 and he has coached and won the most games without winning a title. He worked for the Angels front office for a bunch of years and passed away from lung cancer in 2005 when he was 79.


Dave Bristol was born in Macon, Georgia, and was also a middle infielder in high school, as well as an all-city basketball guard and halfback. He was signed by Cincinnati in 1951 after a year at Western Carolina University – he would complete a degree there and at UNC in education – and then hit .270 in D ball that summer. In ’52 and ’53 he moved up to C ball where he hit roughly .245 before later the second season he joined the military. He returned in ’55 to hit .247 in B ball and in ’56 moved back to D ball where he hit .274. In '57 he had moved to C ball where he was hitting .333 when he was asked to manage a D club. There he hit .332 while leading the club to a record of 38-59, significantly better than his predecessors. He continued to play through ’61, recording big seasons in C ball in ’59 (.289/13/97) and in D ball in ’60 (.295/15/85) and finished with a .283 average. He remained in the Cincinnati system as a manager through ’65, running up a record of 662-562 during that time and winning league championships in five of those nine seasons. In ’66 he was brought up top to coach and early that season was named manager. As a manager he was a taskmaster and bench jockey who got in trouble for riding the umps. He did a pretty good job putting together the team that would become The Big Red Machine but couldn’t get to the playoffs so was dismissed following the ’69 season. He was hired by Montreal but then jumped ship to manage the Brewers which he did from ’70 through mid-’72. In ’73 he became a coach with Montreal for real, which he did through ’75. He then moved to manage the Braves where in ’77 he was replaced by team owner Ted Turner for a game before the league put a stop to that and Dave returned to finish the season. In ’78 he coached the Giants and then took over managing in ’79 as the team failed to move ahead in its rebuilding. But there he clashed with Jack Clark and got into a fight with John Montefusco and was done after the ’80 season. After a year out of the game he returned to coach for the Phillies (’82-’85, ‘88) and the Reds (’89 and ’93). In between and thereafter he returned to his off-season business of raising horses back in North Carolina. Dave’s record was 657-764 overall up top and he continues to reside in his base state.

Larry Doby was born in South Carolina and relocated to New Jersey when he was a kid after his father died. He spent high school in Patterson where he was all-state in the big three sports and track and he played both semi-pro (with Monte Irvin) and Negro League ball before he finished school (he adopted the surname Walker when he played in the Negro Leagues). After graduating in ’41 he went to Long Island University on a hoops scholarship. He did not finish out the year but did play pro hoops for the Harlem Rens and baseball for the Newark Eagles the following spring, playing second and hitting around .390. He then transferred to Virginia Union University and then in ’43 again played for Newark before being inducted into the military. He played some service ball over the next three seasons while being stationed in the US and the Pacific. He returned to Newark in ’46 and hit .341, which got him noticed by Cleveland owner Bill Veeck. After a winter of pro hoops for the Paterson Crescents he returned to Newark where he was hitting .458 with Negro League-leading totals of 16 doubles and 13 homers when he was signed by Veeck and later that summer became the first black player in the AL. He only got some token time at the plate that first season but returned in ’48 to take over center field and hit .301 before leading Cleveland hitters in the Series with a .318 average. In ’49 he hit .280 while upping his RBI total to 85 and increased everything in ’50 with a .326/25/102 season with an AL-leading .442 OBA. After a knee injury hurt his power a bit in ’51 he returned to put up his three biggest power years, averaging 31 homers and 111 RBI’s through ’54 while hitting about .272. During that time he led the AL in homers twice and runs and RBI’s once. In ’55 he hit .291 with 26 homers but a leg injury helped pull his RBI number down to 75 and after the season he was traded to the White Sox. His first year in Chicago he had a .268/24/102 season but he again injured his leg in ’57 and his numbers slipped to .288/14/79. He was then traded back to Cleveland where he hit .283 with 13 homers and 45 RBI’s in half a season in ’58. He then went to Detroit and back to Chicago for a few games before re-joining Cleveland at their PCL franchise. There a couple games in he broke his ankle and missed the rest of the season. He signed with Toronto of the IL in ’60 but was cut when his ankle didn’t come around. After returning to Paterson to coach and run his club in Newark he went to Japan in ’62 with Don Newcombe to play for Chunichi as the first Americans to play there. That ended his playing career and he finished with a .283 average with 253 homers, 970 RBI’s, and a .386 OBA. He hit .237 in ten post-season games and made seven consecutive All-Star teams. In ’63 he resumed his work in Paterson which he did until he became a scout and minor league hitting coach with the new Expos in ’69. He moved up top to coach from ’71 to ’73 and then returned to Cleveland to coach in ’74. There were rumors that he would become MLB’s first black manager but when the Tribe traded for Frank Robinson that opportunity slipped away and Larry was released as a coach prior to the ’75 season. In ’77 he moved to the White Sox as hitting coach and then replaced Bob Lemon as manager mid-way through the ’78 season. He went 30-57 in that role before again becoming hitting coach in ’79. He then moved on to basketball and from ’80 through ’90 worked for the New Jersey Nets in various community-relationship roles. He then did some admin work for the MLB offices but mostly retired to Montclair, NJ. He was inducted into the Hall in ’98 and passed away in Montclair in 2003 from cancer. He was 79.

Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish had a dad who was nearly a full-blooded Native American and who obviously liked names. Cal grew up in Oklahoma and was signed by the Dodgers as a bonus baby pitcher in ’44 out of high school and therefore began his career right away in the majors. He went 3-10 that summer with a 7.82 ERA and then spent the next two years in the military, grabbing an inning on his return late in ’46. He then got traded – with Gene Mauch – to Pittsburgh where he did a couple seasons in Triple A and won 12 games in ’48. But his control wasn’t great and his ERA was toppy so he was traded to the Cubs and had another mediocre season in ’49 at the same level before going 20-11 with a 3.60 ERA in ’50. That got him back up top but a ’51 season of 4-10 with a 4.45 ERA moved him back down and he spent the next four seasons in the PCL going a combined 56-53 with a 3.55 ERA and much better control. He then got purchased by Cleveland for whom he returned to the top. After a not great ’56 he put together three pretty good seasons: 9-7 with a 2.74 ERA in ’57; 16-8, 2.99 in ’58; and 19-8, 3.63 in ’59. He then went with Billy Martin to the Reds in a trade but went only 4-14. He had another losing season in ’61 with the White Sox before going to Philadelphia where over the next two years he was 24-16 with a 3.66 ERA. After a couple games in ’64 he was done and finished with a record of 92-92 with a 4.01 ERA, 57 complete games, five shutouts, and seven saves. In Philly Cal’s old buddy Gene Mauch was the manager and in ’65 Gene named Cal pitching coach which he did through ’66 before working the next two seasons as a scout for the team. He then re-joined Mauch as a coach for the new Expos which he did through ’75. He then moved on to Milwaukee as its pitching coach (’76-’82) and scout (’83- late Nineties) and then retired. He passed away in Oklahoma in 2010 at age 84 from leukemia.

Jerry Zimmerman was born in Omaha, Nebraska and moved to Oregon as a kid where he excelled as an athlete at Milwaukie High. There he was chased down by every MLB club after hitting .423 for his career – and .621 his senior year of ’52 – as a catcher. The Red Sox won him with a bonus of between $65,000 and $80,000 and he hit .230 that summer in C ball. He upped that to .265 in ’53 but with very little power. In ’54 he hit .302 in D ball, followed by a .275 in B ball in ’55 and a .231 in A ball in ’56. He was very adept at handling difficult pitches and had very low error and passed ball totals. He had one of his better offensive years in ’57 with a .266 Double A year and then hit .250 in Triple A the following year. After starting off ’59 badly he was released and picked up by Baltimore. His average didn’t improve and after the season he was sent to Cincinnati for whom in ’60 he hit .279 in Triple A. He finally made The Show in ’61 when he stepped in as part of a three-man rotation at catcher and had the best average – at only .206 – of any of the guys in that position on the pennant winner. He got some Series time and then was traded to the Twins for whom he spent the next five seasons backing up Earl Battey. He returned to the Series in ’65 and had his best season up top in ’66 when he hit .252 with 15 RBI’s. He took over as a starter in ’67 when Battey got sick and also was the club’s bullpen coach, a role he continued partly in ’68, his last season. He finished with an average of .204 in the majors, .258 in the minors, and went hitless in one at bat in the post-season. While in the minors he had played for Gene Mauch and he rejoined him as an original Expos coach in ’69, staying there through ’75. He then returned to Minnesota with Mauch and coached there through ’80 and in ’78 umped a game during the umpire strike that year. He was then a scout for the Yankees for two years before taking on that role with Baltimore, which he did through ’97. He passed away from a heart attack in ’98 when he was 63.

The double hook-up returns since Gene did some good time in the majors. For him as manager:

1. Mauch managed Mike Marshall on the ’70 to ’73 Expos and the ’78 to ’80 Twins;
2. Marshall and Mickey Stanley ’67 Tigers.

And for him as a player:

1. Mauch and Jim Piersall ’57 Red Sox;
2. Piersall and Jim Perry ’59 to ’61 Twins;
3. Perry and Mickey Stanley ’73 Tigers.

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