As a preview to our Philly Dream Series, today we are featuring the lineup for Connie Mack‘s 1929 Athletics. Some players you may have heard of before, some are in the Hall of Fame, but all of them have an interesting story to tell.
CATCHER: The A’s have the best catcher in baseball, possibly the best ever, Mickey Cochrane. He was actually a better football player in college, but without an established pro league, he turned to baseball. Good thing for old Connie that he did. Cochrane won the MVP in 1928, and was none too shabby this season either with a .331 average.
FIRST BASE: At first base, the A’s have one of the finest young studs in the game Jimmie Foxx. The 21-year old man known as The Beast is just that, hitting .354 with 33 homers and 118 RBIs this season. Many pitchers are scared of Foxx when he digs in, and prefer to give him a free pass. He had more walks than the Babe this season, and again. he’s only 21. This pretty boy (he’s a big fan of manicures and loves to cut off his sleeves to show off his muscles) is bound to get even better.
SECOND BASE: Short and feisty, second bagger Max Bishop doesn’t pack a lot of wallop, but they don’t call him “Camera Eye” for nothing: he led the majors in walks with 128. He struggled and only hit .232 this season, but had the same OBP (.398) as superstar Al Simmons, who hit .365. His job is to lead off and get on the pond so the sluggers behind him, such as Foxx, Simmons, and Cochrane, can get the 5’8″ sparkplug home, and he does a terrific job of it. In fact, in a game against the Yankees in April, he walked 5 times. Despite having zero official at bats that game, he scored three runs. He’s also an excellent defenseman.
SHORTSTOP: At shortstop, the A’s have one of the most unheralded players in the game, Silent Joe Boley. Boley spent the prime of his career in the minors, not because he couldn’t make the majors, but because nobody would pay the owner of his independent team enough to get him. The A’s finally secured his rights in 1927, and he was the cat’s meow his rookie year. Unfortunately, since then he’s struggled with a “dead arm”, exacerbated when he was hit by a bottle thrown by Cleveland fans (who were aiming for a nearby umpire). He had a .251 average this year, and only played in 91 games, but he does play excellent defense when healthy. And don’t look to him for a post-game quote; he didn’t get the name Silent Joe for nuthin’.
THIRD BASE: Debuting in 1919, Jimmy Dykes has played on this team for many of its lean years. Only reserve catcher Cy Perkins has been on the team longer. Dykes is as versatile as anyone in the league, and once played seven positions (including pitcher!) in a single game. He has perhaps the strongest arm in baseball, and he’s none too shabby at the plate, either, hitting .327 this season with 79 RBIs.
LEFT FIELD: Sorry Babe Ruth, but the best outfielder in baseball plays his home games in Philadelphia. He was born with the name Aloisius Szymanski, but he’s better known as Al Simmons. Despite his unorthodox batting style (they call him Bucketfoot Al), he rips the rawhide off the ball. He finished the season hitting .365 with 34 long balls and a league-leading 157 RBIs. He is so smooth defensively that it looks as if he’s not trying. That has led to him (incredibly and absurdly) not being a fan favorite in Philadelphia, because the fans think he coasts. But Connie Mack sure loves him plenty. Listen to this glowing praise from Mack: “Simmons is one of the few players that spring up once in a decade with the baseball instinct. Other players of the type were Napoleon Lajoie, Honus Wagner, and the great and only Ty Cobb. When one says this he says it all.”
CENTER FIELD: In center is New Jersey native Mule Haas, who made huge strides in this, his sophomore season. A .313 hitter with plenty of defensive speed, he’s also got some power, as his 16 homers and 41 doubles can attest. Guess how he got the nickname Mule.
RIGHT FIELD: In 1926, Connie Mack sent Bing Miller off to the St. Louis Browns. He labored in the painful obscurity that is St. Louis Brown baseball, but hit well enough that in 1928 Mack decided to bring him back. It was a smart choice. He hit an impressive .331 this season, and despite being 34 years old, he also led the team with 24 stolen bases.