By: Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
You had to glance to find the notation last month in the Transactions in the newspaper agate pages, or as some of us in the media business say it, the 6-point pages, where the point size is dramatically reduced from the size you normally see.
"Philadelphia Phillies – Extend contract of interim manager Pete Mackanin through the 2016 season with a club option for 2017."
That was the notation that caught the eyes of many. For Expos’ fans, the name is familiar. Mackanin was both a player and coach for the Expos. The infielder played for the Expos from 1975-77 under managers Gene Mauch, Karl Kuehl and Dick Williams. In 1974, the Expos’ brass stood up and took notice of Mackanin when he hit 28 homers and drove in 103 runs for Spokane of the Pacific Coast League.
It was in 1975 with a salary of $16,000 that the rookie Mackanin posted his best numbers in the majors: 19 doubles, 12 homers and 44 RBI in 448 at-bats. He could never live up to those numbers again.
Twenty years after playing his final game with the Expos, he became the team’s third-base coach under Felipe Alou in 1997 and remained with the club through the 2000 season.
Sandwiched in and around his time with the Expos, the career baseball lifer and career coach was interim manager with the Phillies and he was interim manager for the Pirates in 2005 and Reds in 2007. Finally, he had the interim tag removed by the Phillies by incoming president Andy MacPhail and he’s back to run his program again next season for a team that lost almost 100 games this season.
Along the way, Mackanin, a youthful looking 64 who actually looks 55-ish, was a coach for the Pirates and a coach for the Phillies. He’s had a good run with the Phillies off and on over the years. He was a spot player with the Phillies in the 1970s so he had ties to the team. He was bench coach for the Phillies from 2009-2011 and then they brought him back in 2014 to be third-base coach for Ryne Sandberg. When Sandberg stepped down on June 25th of this year, Mackanin was appointed interim skipper.
Following the All-Star Break this season, the Phillies won 12 of their first 14 games and 16 of 21, something MacPhail clearly noticed. The personable, likeable Mackanin from the south side of Chicago who now calls Scottsdale, Ariz. home, also speaks Spanish.
“Pete was always a good baseball guy. He played hard,’’ former Expos teammate Tim Foli told me the other day. “He was the kind of a guy who didn’t take everything for life or death. He learned the game and he expanded that as a bench coach and base coach.
“When you become a manager in the big leagues, you’re only as good as your players but what you have to do is find out what they can do and put them in situations where they will excel and I think Pete will be great at that.’’
It will be interesting to see what Mackanin can do with the sad-sack Phillies. We wish him much luck. Mackanin is very accustomed to losing teams, though. The ’75 Expos were 75-87 in Mauch’s last season, the ’76 Expos were just pitiful at 55-107 under the overwhelmed Kuehl and the ’77 edition was 75-87 under Williams.
This corner reached out to Mackanin through the Phillies’ baseball-communications department and with two phone calls to his Scottsdale residence but there was no return call. No problem. We wish him all the luck at spring training and next season. After all, he’s an Expo.