Monday, July 29, 2013

Connie Mack has some advice for the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies

This seems like an appropriate time for this vintage advertisement.

The Philadelphia Phillies are an utter train wreck; they lost their eighth straight game yesterday, by a score of 12-4 to the Detroit Tigers. In one inning, the Phillies made three errors and gave up eight unearned runs, a nearly impossible feat.

Perhaps the Phillies should get back to basics.

Perhaps they can find a copy of the 110-year-old book advertised here — 1903's "How to Play Base-Ball" by Cornelius McGillicuddy Sr. (aka Connie Mack).

Here is the small type from the above advertisement:
"This is the first book ever published that explains fully how to play the National game. Although it is said that Base-ball players are born, not made, How to Play Base-Ball will not only develop the born player, but will go a long way towards making a good player of every desirous person.

Fully illustrated with pictures of the principal players in both the American and National Leagues; and a special article by 'Rube' Waddell on pitching, elaborately illustrated with photographs specially posed for by himself, showing how to hold a ball in order to throw certain curves, drops, etc."

Bob Warrington wrote about this Mack book on the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society website back in 2002. He offered the following insights:
  • "The 169-page book contains far more than basic instructions on playing the game of baseball. It provides insights into Mack’s managerial philosophy at an early point in his career, and it offers his commentary on other issues pertaining to the state of baseball as it existed at the dawn of the 20th century."
  • "The 1903 publication of the book was also intended to capitalize on the Athletics’ AL championship in the 1902 baseball season. ... The City of Philadelphia and its citizens rejoiced at the A’s triumph. An enormous parade was held in their honor in downtown Philadelphia with over 350 clubs and organizations sending bands and marchers to participate. Consequently, it’s not surprising that a publisher based in Philadelphia would regard a book authored by Mack on how to play baseball as a highly marketable commodity. ... By contrast, the Philadelphia Phillies, who had been in existence for almost 20 years, were still looking for their first NL pennant."
  • "Connie Mack’s 'How to Play Baseball' is rarely found today, and obtaining a copy will be difficult. It’s not clear how many copies were published initially. There is no evidence to indicate that subsequent editions of the book were produced or if it was republished at a later date."

Those are just a few short excerpts. Warrington goes into much greater depth about Mack and the book in his article, which I highly recommend.

Author Norman L. Macht also discusses "How to Play Base-Ball" in his own book — "Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball." Macht notes the following: "Citing brains as the primary factor in a team's success, Mack considered base running the most important, most interesting, and most intellectual department of the game. A manager could flash all the signs he wanted, but once the ball was in play with a man on base, he couldn't do the thinking for the base runner."

Finally, Mack's 1903 book was published by Drexel Biddle of Philadelphia. Publishing was one of the few areas in which millionaire Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle Sr. did not excel during his fascinating lifetime. His story, though, will have to be a blog post for another day. (Or another writer.)

If you're interested in "How to Play Base-Ball," you can find digital editions here or order a reprint from Amazon.

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