When he retired in spring training of 1988, Gene Mauch had managed more games and for more years (26) than anyone in major league history but Connie Mack, John McGraw, and Bucky Harris. He also managed the longest without winning a pennant; he came close three times. Leading by 6-1/2 games with two weeks to go, his 1964 Phillies collapsed, finishing in a tie for second. Many said he overworked his three best pitchers at the end of the race. His Angels won two division titles, but suffered heartbreaking losses in the ALCS. They needed to win one of the final three games in 1982 against Milwaukee, but failed to do so. In 1986, California was one strike away when Boston’s Dave Henderson homered to win Game Five; the Red Sox then easily took the final two contests. When asked by brave reporters how he could deal with those memories, Mauch replied, “I have an amazing ability to forget.”
Mauch’s playing career began in 1943 in the Dodger organization. He relied more on brains than on brawn. He had had trials with five NL teams in 1953 when he became the 28-year-old playing manager of the Southern Association’s Atlanta Crackers. “I really wasn’t ready,” he later admitted. He had a low boiling point, often fought with umpires, and expected too much of his players. With an eye on again playing in the majors, he gave up managing. He batted .348 as the 1956 Pacific Coast League‘s All-Star second baseman, then spent all of 1957 with the Red Sox.
Testy and combative as a player, Mauch mellowed in his second chance as a manager, beginning in 1958 with Minneapolis (American Association). He took the Phillies’ helm in 1960, survived 23 consecutive losses in 1961 (a modern NL record), and was named NL Manager of the Year in 1962 (81-80, seventh place) and 1964 (92-70, second). He was thrown out by umpires only three times in his first five seasons. When he left Philadelphia in 1968, he had compiled 645 wins – second most in franchise history.
Mauch was chosen to be the expansion 1969 Expos manager, and lasted through 1975, winning a third Manager of the Year Award in 1973 (79-83, fourth). He guided the Twins (including his nephew, Roy Smalley, Jr.), from 1976 until his resignation in late August of 1980, when he tired of having teams in the rebuilding stage. He vowed not to manage any club but a contender. The following May, he replaced Jim Fregosi in California. He resigned after the 1982 LCS loss, moved up to become Director of Player Personnel for two years, and returned to the Angels dugout in 1985.
Mauch was known as a sharp tactician who loved the sacrifice bunt and the pinch hitter. His detractors faulted him for overmanaging and for giving more signs than the Coast Guard. He liked to make use of his entire roster. “I want everybody to feel he has a chance to get into a game when he comes to the ballpark,” he said. “I play guys when I want to so they’ll be ready when I have to. I don’t consider myself a motivator of players. I think it’s an insult to a ballplayer to have to be motivated.”