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Mauch remembered as master strategist despite infamous losses
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Gene Mauch joined the Minnesota Twins in 1976 and spent the rest of his career in the AL. He was with the Twins until 1980, followed by two stints with the Angels. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Los Angeles, Calif. — (AP) Even with his teams' storied collapses, Gene Mauch left an indelible imprint on baseball.

Mauch, who won 1,901 games during 26 years as a major league manager, died Monday after a lengthy battle with cancer, the Los Angeles Angels said. He was 79.

Known as "the little general" for his intricate game strategies and no-nonsense dealings with players, Mauch was regarded as one of baseball's top innovators.

He still gained far more notoriety for his teams' historic failures.

"If it's true you learn from adversity, I must be the smartest (guy) in the world," Mauch once said.

He died at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the desert resort area where he had lived since retiring.

A big league skipper with California, Philadelphia, Montreal and Minnesota, Mauch was the National League manager of the year three times. He is sixth in baseball history with 3,938 games managed, and 11th on the career victories list.

"When you played against him he looked like a robot, but when you got to know him you learned how passionate he was about the game," New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said Monday. "He was a very classy, very generous, very caring man."

Mauch is forever linked to dramatic collapses. He was manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964 when they led the NL by 6½ games with 12 games remaining, but lost 10 in a row - and the pennant - to the St. Louis Cardinals.

"He carries the burden of the '64 Phillies, but if it wasn't for Gene's managing, we would have never been in position to win the thing," Phillies vice president of public relations Larry Shenk said.

Mauch managed the California Angels in 1986 when they were within one out of advancing to their first World Series before they blew a three-run lead to Boston in Game 5 of the ALCS. The Red Sox won that game and the next two to win the series.

He also managed the 1982 Angels, who won the first two games in the best-of-five ALCS against Milwaukee before losing the final three.

"I don't think history will be as fair to him as it should be," said Tim Mead, the Angels' vice president of communications and a member of the organization since 1979. "He was brilliant. Gene Mauch could put together a game just by looking at the box score."

Bobby Wine, who played 12 seasons under Mauch in Philadelphia, said Mauch was a master at thinking ahead.

"I don't know of a better strategist. He knew the rules better than umpires," Wine said. "One time, Jim Bunning was having trouble with a baseball. The umpires wouldn't give him a new one.

"Gene came out to the mound, dropped the ball on the ground and spiked it with his shoes. Bunning got a new baseball."

Mauch was one of the first managers to use double switches.

"I was playing shortstop and Gene came out to take out the pitcher," Wine recalled. "He told me I was out of the game, too. I said, 'Why me? I didn't give up the home run.'

"It was the first time I was involved in a double switch."

Dallas Green said: "He was so far ahead of everyone and knew the rules better than anyone and used that to his advantage. He respected the game very much and taught all of us how to play good, sound, fundamental baseball."

Mauch, a native of Salina, Kan., began his major league career in 1944 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He played for nine seasons on six teams - the Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Braves, the Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox.

A utility infielder who was a mediocre player, he had a career average of .239 with five home runs.

His first major league managing job was with the Phillies in 1960. They went 58-94, but within two years Mauch would be named NL manager of the year after leading them to an 81-80 record in 1962.

He won the award again in 1964, the year of the Phillies' great disappointment. Mauch guided Philadelphia to a record of 92-70, his best as a manager until the 1983 Angels went 93-69.

He left Philadelphia 54 games into the 1968 season.

In 1969 he was hired to manage the expansion Montreal Expos. Mauch stayed in Montreal for seven seasons and won his third and final manager of the year award in 1973 as he helped lift the lowly Expos to a 79-83 record and a fourth-place finish in the NL East.

Mauch joined the Minnesota Twins in 1976 and spent the rest of his career in the AL. He was with the Twins until 1980, followed by two stints with the Angels, the first in 1981 and 1982 and the second from 1985-87.

One of Mauch's greatest disappointments came at the end of his career, with the Angels' so-called "Donnie Moore" game.

With a 3-1 lead in games over the Boston Red Sox in the best-of-seven AL Championship series in 1986, the Angels held a 5-2 advantage going into the ninth inning of Game 5. After Mike Witt retired the first two batters, the Red Sox got a runner on before Don Baylor homered to make it 5-4.

Mauch pulled Witt and brought in left-hander Gary Lucas to face the left-handed hitting Rich Gedman, who was 4-for-4 against Witt in the game. Lucas hit Gedman with a pitch - his first hit batter in four years - and Mauch summoned Moore, his closer.

Henderson hit a two-run homer to put the Red Sox ahead 6-5.

The Angels tied the game again in the ninth but lost in 11 innings and then dropped the series when the Red Sox won two straight in Boston.

Moore, who said he had a sore arm when Mauch sent him out in the ninth, never recovered from the loss. He soon was out of baseball, and committed suicide in 1989.

Asked in recent years how often he thought about that 1986 game, Mauch replied: "Only when guys have the temerity to ask about it."

Mauch was still following baseball closely when the Angels won the World Series in 2002, softening many of the team's ugly memories.

"I get so keyed up during these games," Mauch said during the Angels' playoff series against the Minnesota Twins in 2002. "All I did for 50 years was study the game day and night. And I will forever, for however long 'forever' is."

Mauch is survived by his wife, Jodie, and a daughter, Leeanne. Funeral services were pending.

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