Keeping a secret
Silver Creek native?Ehmke earns praise of Connie Mack
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article appeared in The Post-Journal on Feb. 13, 1956 and is another story in our “Remember When?” series.
Connie Mack stories are limitless and will gain splender with the passing of time as are the legends of Babe Ruth.
We never met Mr. Mack, but we have a personal letter from him, written in a scraggly scrawl, difficult to decipher but boldly to the point. Years ago we felt minor leagues were not getting their share of publicity and we still think so. At the time a certain Jamestown businessman offered to finance us in publishing a tabloid similar to The Sporting News, but devoted entirely to the minors. We slept with it for a few weeks and then decided to write three men – Branch Rickey, Clark Griffith and Connie Mack. Rickey and Griffith, through their neatly typed letters with a rubber stamp signature and secretary’s symbol in the lower left-hand corner, thought the idea had merit. Mack, with his roughly scrawled, two-page note, felt it didn’t. We went along with Mr. Mack and forgot our ambition to enter the publishing field.
His passing has brought to light tales of the years when baseball was young, rough and uncouth. When men fought for victories and carried their grudges to the grave. Mr. Mack lived through an era of giants to become a symbol spanning the entire lifetime of the major leagues.
Oft-repeated, but always interesting, is the Howard Ehmke story which, in a way, has its basis here in Western New York. Ehmke, born in Silver Creek and a big name as a high school and amateur pitcher throughout our area long before he went to the majors, was gassing about it with a United Press reporter in Florida the other day.
“I’ve kept the greatest tribute I ever received locked up in my heart for 23 years, but now that Mr. Mack is gone, it’s time to share it,” Ehmke told the scribe.
“It was given to me by Mr. Mack on his 70th birthday and it’s worth more than all the treasures in an art museum. It’s Mr. Mack’s personal ‘thanks’ for my victory over the Cubs in the first game of the 1929 World Series.
“It’s a picture of Mr. Mack, taken on his 70th birthday, and it has the following inscription in his hand on it:
To Howard Ehmke, whom I consider the greatest pitching artist of his day: Your pitching in the first World Series game of 1929 when you broke all World Series records by striking out 13 Cubs gave me a thrill that will always be remembered by me. Connie Mack
“I guess the story of the game itself is old hat. I won only seven games all that year and I could pitch only once every three weeks, but Mr. Mack believed I could beat the Cubs and told me on Sept. 14 that I would pitch the opener on Oct. 8 against them.
“I remember him telling me he would take all the responsibility if the game was lost, but I was determined to repay his faith in me. I was ready when the big day came. I never had better stuff and my control was good. It was my great day, of course. And Mr. Mack told me himself three years later it was the biggest thrill of his career. That was in September 1932 and I told him I’d appreciate any little memento of the game he’d like to give me.
“Going back to that World Series game, Mr. Mack had called me into his office just a few weeks before the Series and said: ‘Howard, I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you go.’
“I told him I always wanted to be on a pennant winner and in a World Series and this was the closest I ever got to it.
‘Do you believe you could win a game in the World Series, Howard,’ Mr. Mack asked me.
“I replied: Mr. Mack, I’ve got one more good game in me and I’d like to give it to you in October.”
“When we arrived at the field in Chicago for the opening game, not one of our players knew the identity of our first pitcher. Everyone was guessing it would be Grove or Earnshaw or Wallberg. Not until shortly before the game when I took off my jacket and started to warm up, did the secret come out.
“I guess everybody, except Mr. Mack and I, was surprised. I remember Al Simmons was sitting next to Mr. Mack on the bench and jumped up when I took off my jacket.
‘Is he going to work?’ Simmons asked Mr. Mack.
‘Yes, have you any objection?’ Mr. Mack replied.
‘Nope,’ Al said. ‘I think he can win. It’s good enough for me.’
“That was another reason why I was glad I was able to beat the Cubs. I beat them for Mr. Mack more than anyone else, but don’t think I wasn’t thinking about my teammates when I was out there, too.”