One fine man

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

The first face of the Montreal Expos was either Rusty Staub or Mack Jones, the mayor of Jonesville, by which the left-field bleachers at Jarry Parc were known.

But the wisdom and the credibility of the Expos in 1969 came from their original manager Gene Mauch.

Mauch, 79, died Monday at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"I learned more baseball from Gene that one year (1970) I was his third-base coach than in all my years in the game ... combined," legendary manager Dick Williams said from Las Vegas.

"What I learned from Gene, helped me win World Series titles with the Oakland A's (1972-73)."

Mauch managed the expansion Expos to 52 wins and averaged 75 wins the next six seasons before he was fired and replaced with Karl Kuehl.

"Fans in Montreal loved Gene Mauch," said former Expo reliever Claude Raymond from St. Jean sur Richelieu, Que. "He was ahead of the other managers -- except for handling his pitching staff at times."

Mauch had some misses during his major-league managing career before and after guiding the Expos.

Managing the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, Mauch had a six-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals with two weeks remaining in the season. He shortened his rotation as the Phillies lost 11 of their final 14. Jim Bunning and Chris Short each made five starts, while Art Mahaffey and Dennis Bennett each took the ball twice.

"Someone told me he thought I was responsible for their loss," said Raymond, then a member of the Houston Astros. "I hit Johnny Callison on the knee cap and he missed a few days. I think he decided that day that he didn't like me."

Heading into the final day, the Phillies sat a game behind St. Louis. Joe Liscio, who was Mauch's trainer both in Philadelphia and Montreal, told us this memorable story years later when he worked with the San Francisco Giants.

"It's 9 a.m. on the Sunday morn, last day of the season. Gene and I sitting in the dugout at Crosley Field, our whole world is crashing down around us," Liscio said. "We hear this shuffling coming down the tunnel and it was Fred Hutchinson."

Hutchinson battled cancer until he resigned in August, with Dick Sisler taking over.

"Just wanted to wish you guys good luck ... not to worry, everything will be okay, no matter what happens," Hutchinson said and off he went back up the tunnel.

"Gene looked at me and said 'here we are worrying about what's going to happen this afternoon and they say Fred might not make Christmas."

Bunning pitched a complete-game shutout, but Bob Gibson pitched the Cardinals to a win over the New York Mets. The Phillies collapse was complete. Hutchinson died Nov. 12 at age 45.

With the 1986 Anaheim Angels, Mauch's team was a win away from making it to the World Series. Hundreds of Orange County youngsters, including Shawn Green, were ready to jump on to the field to celebrate after the final out of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.

Then, Dave Henderson hit a two-run homer off Donnie Moore for a 6-5 lead. The Angels rallied to tie, but lost in 11 innings and lost Game 6 and 7 at Fenway Park.

"He gets a bad rap because he has never won, he was so far ahead of other managers," Williams said. "He went with his best guy with the Angels. In Philly he didn't have the horses."

On the career managerial list, Mauch ranks tied for fifth in service (26 years), sixth in games managed (3,938) and 11th in wins (1,901).

Raymond saved 23 games for the 1970 Expos and was called into Mauch's office on Labour Day and told "you had a good year, now we're going to see what the kids can do. The kids were Mike Marshall and Howie Reed -- Howie was older than I was."

In 1994, the Expos inducted righty Steve Rogers, Raymond and Mauch into their Hall of Fame.

"He seemed very lonely that day, all the press were talking to Steve and I," Raymond remembered. "We were seated on the field he put his hand on my knee and said 'congratulations, I'm very proud of you.' That was the only time he ever showed any warmth.

"He was a good baseball man."


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