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March 27, 2013

Wezen-Ball

Connie Mack, the Wise-Cracking Catcher

by Larry Granillo

Ad Gumbert was a well-traveled right-handed pitcher who played his last game in 1896. In his nine year career, Gumbert pitched for National League squads in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia. In 1890, he finished 23-12 for the Boston Reds of the Players League under manager King Kelly. In all this time shuttling around the league, Gumbert met many of the game's characters and walked away with a few stories.

In a 1911 issue of Baseball Magazine, Gumbert shared this tale on the greatest play he ever witnessed.

The play was made when I was pitching for Pittsburgh and Connie Mack was the catcher. No brainier catcher ever stepped back of the bat. We were playing Chicago and dear old Cap Anson was leading that team. In those days Anson was a terror at bat ...

In the game of which I speak we had a lead of one run and in the ninth inning Chicago had two men on bases and Anson at the bat. Any man who ever pitched to Anson knows what that meant. ...

Then Connie Mack worked the play. He walked to the base line from home to first and made a sharp remark to Anson that for an instant took Cap’s attention away from the pitching. At the instant he spoke Connie flashed me a signal to pitch and I suddenly grasped the idea and cut loose a fast straight ball through the heart of the plate—where Anson would have murdered it had he been watching. As I pitched Connie made a leap and as the ball went over the plate he caught it and Anson was called out on the third strike, retiring the side and giving us the victory.

Let's ignore for a second that this story appears to have Mack still striding behind Anson when Gumbert throws the pitch. It may have been legal, but it feels a bit unfair—not to mention rather risky with someone as temperamental as Cap Anson at the plate. Instead, we'll focus on the real discovery: Connie Mack was the wise-cracking catcher that only seems to exist in movies!

That's right. Connie Mack, the grand-gentleman of the game, was the 19th-century inspiration of this scene (the most relevant part is at 0:45 seconds).

Better yet, we saw Mack's spiritual heir nearly a century later in the Great Hambino:

This is a discovery for the ages. What are we going to learn next? That Mack secretly weighted 250 pounds? One thing is for certain: we're all going to look at every picture of Connie Mack differently now.


"Got any naked pictures of your wife? Wanna see some?"

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Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Second ... (03/27)

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