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August 25, 2017

Why Pete Mackanin is honoring former Phillies manager Gene Mauch during Players Weekend

It’s Players Weekend in Major League Baseball, which, as Pete Mackanin said, is pretty much marketing thing.

As with the half dozen different hats teams wear during the season for holidays (Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, etc.) they turned over a weekend of the baseball season to the players via the Players Association. Players will wear hats and jerseys that will make your local Sunday beer league softball team blush.

But, hey, maybe some fans are into a non-traditional Phillies hat or jersey. More swag!

As a part of Players Weekend, players were asked to put their nickname, rather than their last name, on the back of their jersey. Jorge Alfaro chose “El Oso,” which the folks at Google tell me translates to “the bear.” Odubel Herrera, of course, has gone with “Torito.” My favorite of them all, easily, is Aaron Nola, who went with “Nola.”

(Apparently the deadline – there as a deadline?? – arrived too late for Rhys Hoskins, who won’t get to wear “Big Hosk" or, as one fan suggested, "The Big Rhys." [Get it?] He will be “Hoskins.” At least “Nola” will have a buddy.)

Mackanin has also chosen to keep his surname on the back of his jersey, but he did choose to take part in something else that is special to Players Weekend, and, at least from this seat, the best part of the uniform. Players, coaches and managers were encouraged to write the name of the person or persons who have been the most influential in their career below the Players Association patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys.

Mackanin signed the name of former Phillies manager Gene Mauch onto that spot.

But Mackanin’s connection to Mauch, the second winningest manager in Phillies history (who is probably most known for being the manager of the ill-fated ’64 Phillies) has nothing to do with Philadelphia. Mackanin played under Mauch both with the Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins.

"He just did a lot of things that impressed me," Mackanin said of his former manager. "The way he handled players, the way he handled the game."

Mackanin told a pretty good story about the manager he admired as a young player prior to Friday’s game with the Cubs.

“I hit a fly ball in Boston against the Red Sox when I was with the Twins,” he began. “It was foul by 50 or 60 feet, but the wind was blowing to right field. I stood on home plate thinking it was going to be foul, and then all of a sudden it kept moving closer and closer to the (Green) Monster. And I said, I’m not going to run, if I run now it’ll look bad. and sure enough it hit the top of the Monster for a fair ball and I got a single out of it. He was pissed.

“Anyway, we win the game, and after the game I said, ‘What do I owe you, Gene?’ And he said, ‘Whatever you put on my desk is fine with me when we get back home.’ So I grabbed an envelope and put $50 – you know this is back in 1980 – so I put $50 in an envelope and I put it on his desk, went to go take batting practice. And then the bat boy says, ‘Hey Pete, Gene wants to see you.’ And I said, 'Aw (phooey), I should have put more money in there.'

“We won and he was happy. So I come into his office and he’s got his glasses on [wearing them low] and I said, ‘Gene, what’s up?’ He had the envelope and he threw it at me. I pick it up and he said, ‘Get out of here.’ I picked it up, walked out and I go to my locker and there was my $50 and he put another $50 in it.

“Because I always played hard. I was one of those guys. So just little things like that. You know, he recognized that I played hard, but I (screwed) up. You want the players to play for you, and I really wanted to play for him. He kept telling me how good I was and I wasn’t. But I said, maybe I am, if he said I’m good I must be pretty good. Little things like that.”

Mackanin said Mauch probably would have been happy to see him end up being a big league manager, too. Much passed away in August of 2005.

“He also pinch hit for me (once) on an 0-2 count because I failed to get a bunt down, twice,” Mackanin laughed. “On 0-2, he pinch hit for me. I was mad at myself because I couldn’t get the bunt down. I wasn’t mad at him.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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