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 SRU History Professor Pens First-ever Biography of Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy 




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     SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University history Professor Dr. Alan H. Levy has hit a home run with his latest book “Joe McCarthy: Architect of the Yankee Dynasty,” the first-ever, in-depth biography of the unassuming baseball manager with an uncanny ability to discover and nurture young baseball talent. During a 29-year span in the major leagues, McCarthy left a legacy of nine pennant and seven World Series wins.

     The 435-page book is published by McFarland & Company, Inc. The book is available ($35) at SRU’s Student Government Association Bookstore, from Barnes and Noble, Borders Books as well as on-line at and from the publisher.

     Levy, a 20-year professor at SRU, undertook the biography as part of his professional sabbatical. “It gave me time for research at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, N.Y.,” he says, explaining that in launching into the respected manager’s past, he expected catalogs of books and information but found a biography of the man had never been written.

     “There are many books about the game’s top players -- Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams --  and about the great managers -- John McGraw, Connie Mack, Casey Stengel, Billy Martin and Earl Weaver -- but none about McCarthy. Sure, he’s covered and written about in books, newspapers and magazines dealing with baseball’s history, but no books singly look at this truly great baseball manager,” Levy explains.

     No stranger to writing sports books, Levy has authored “Tackling Jim Crow: Racial Segregation in Professional Football,” released in 2003, and “Rube Waddell: The Zany, Brilliant Life of a Strikeout Artist,” released in 2000. In addition he has authored five other works, including a biography of composer Edward MacDowell.

     The American history professor, who earned his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, found McCarthy was headed toward a career as a plumber — until a parish priest intervened, convincing McCarthy’s mother her son could make more of himself in baseball. Once given his mother’s blessing, McCarthy embarked on a profession that ranks him among the greatest managers ever.

     Born in 1887 in Germantown, Pa., McCarthy lived to be 90 (1978) and served as manager of the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. While viewed by many sports fans as among the greatest managers ever, Levy explains, McCarthy lacked top praise at first because he had never played in the majors. His field experience was limited to minor league play – including the Toledo Mud Hens. He combined his talents for the game with an analytical mind and abilities that taught him to manage people, statistics and hone the skills necessary to get the best from his players.

     Levy’s book points out some of McCarthy’s lack of notoriety was self-inflicted. “He made himself less accessible to the media and journalists of the day – and thus to historians. He penned no set of memoirs, and when approached to write such a memoir, he rejected the notion,” Levy explains. In addition, the professor notes, while the fans watch star players, the mangers working in the dugout, on the practice field and in training camp, often see less of the spotlight. Thus it was for McCarthy.

     An important take on his style can be seen in his on-field demeanor, on which Levy points out McCarthy was only thrown out of six games in an entire career that included seven pennants in eight years – 1936-1943. “Joe McCarthy was not controversial like his counterparts Casey Stengel or Billy Martin. He was a man who studied the field, his players and the statistics, then quietly let his leadership speak for itself,” Levy explains.

     The SRU professor, a longtime sports fan, details one example, noting after a key Red Sox victory over the Yankees in late 1948 photographers were about to take McCarthy’s picture, “but he waived them off, telling them to take the players’ pictures.” Levy credits much of McCarthy’s success to his uncanny skill at paying attention to detail. “Those who have spoken and written of McCarthy frequently point out he saw everything on the field. He knew the dents in the catcher’s mitt showed the accuracy of the pitcher’s curve ball; He noted the velocity of foul balls that went back to the screen as a way of gauging the speed and hop of the pitcher’s fastball. He clearly paid attention to detail – and in the details were the wins.”

     In addition, Levy says McCarthy used his managerial skills in working his strategy for the game. He used the opponents’ statistics to anticipate outcomes and place his own players accordingly, thus making things happen on the field, rather than just reacting to the action.

     Research work took Levy through issues of Time magazine, the Saturday Evening Post, Newsweek and Colliers as well as what was then a start-up magazine Sports Illustrated. He also read baseball coverage in the nation’s major newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal and the New York Times, among man others. It also carried him to lesser known, and now many defunct newspapers, including the Boston Post, Cleveland News, Philadelphia Public Ledger, and Toledo News Bee. “It was very interesting to read the old newspapers and watch the reporting style and the kind of coverage baseball received during McCarthy’s era,” Levy adds.

     Not one to rest on his laurels, Levy is already involved in research on his next book on boxer Floyd Patterson.





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