Gene Mauch was born on November 18, 1925, in Salina, Kansas but he grew up mostly in Southern California, where the family moved in 1937. His dad encouraged him in baseball, as the precocious 12-year-old had shown both talent and self-confidence in the sport. 

In Los Angeles he commuted across town to attend John C. Fremont High School, which had a reputation as the best baseball school in town. He also played basketball and was on the wrestling team. He played American Legion baseball for the Sunrise Post of Los Angeles, the 1942 national champion. With his aggressive style, it didn’t take long for Gene to gain notoriety. 

In 1943 he was one of eight players from the Legion team who were signed to minor-league contracts. He was signed personally to the Brooklyn Dodgers by Branch Rickey.

The 17-year-old was sent to the Dodgers’ Durham Bulls farm club in the Class B Piedmont League. He hit .322 for the Bulls and was advanced to the Montreal Royals of the International League, where he batted just .169. He had been promoted to the parent team because of a shortage of players caused by World War II. He made his major-league debut against the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day, April 1944. He had a total of 15 at-bats with a .133 batting average before he was sent down to Montreal.

Gene left civilian life in May, when he was summoned into the military. He served in the Army Air Corps at Marana Army Air Field in Arizona, where he played baseball for the Marana Hosses in the Tucson Semipro League. Later he was sent to the Cadet Training Corps and was learning to fly an airplane when the war ended.

He was honorably discharged in the spring of 1946, returned to the Dodgers and was assigned to St. Paul in the American Association. In May 1947, Brooklyn dealt him to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played second base for the Pirates’ Indianapolis farm team, and compiled a .300 batting average. That December, the Pirates swapped him back to the Dodgers.

The 1948 season started and he batted just .154 before he was placed on waivers in June, and was claimed by the Chicago Cubs. He worked as a utility infielder for the Cubs in 1949, and then was dealt to the Boston Braves. In July of that year he was hitting just .100 and was rarely seeing any action, so the Braves demoted him to their farm team in Milwaukee.

In November 1951, the New York Yankees selected Gene from the Braves in the Rule 5 major-league draft. Before the 1952 season began, the St. Louis Cardinals claimed him off waivers from the Yankees. As a Cardinal, he played in only seven games with three at-bats and no hits. In May, St. Louis released him, and the same day he re-signed with the Braves, who assigned him again to Milwaukee. As 1953 approached, Gene had been in “The Show” with five major-league teams and had never secured a safe roster spot or a starting role. 

The Braves then made him the manager of the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, their Double-A club. During the season, Gene fought with his players and umpires and although he managed the Crackers to a third-place finish, he resigned as the manager. 

For the next three seasons he played second base for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, the Cubs’ top farm team. His best season was 1956, when the Angels won the PCL pennant and he hit .348.

In September the Cubs sold him to the Boston Red Sox, and as a September call-up he batted .320 in seven games. In 1957 he hit .270 and his final game as a major leaguer, came on September 28th against the visiting Yankees when he singled as a pinch-hitter at Fenway. 

In 1958 he accepted the managerial spot with Boston’s American Association affiliate, the Minneapolis Millers. He put himself in the lineup for 65 games and managed the team to a 4-0 sweep in the Junior World Series over the Montreal Royals of the International League. The next season he again steered the Millers to the Junior World Series against the Havana Sugar Kings. 

In 1960, as Gene geared for a third Millers season, he was offered the Philadelphia Phillies managerial post. He was 34 years old when he accepted the job, at the time the youngest manager in the major leagues. Thus began his 26-year odyssey as a manager in major-league baseball. 

The 1960 Phils ended in the NL basement and in 1961 the team amassed 107 losses and were 46 games behind the first place Cincinnati Reds. They lost 23 consecutive games, yet Gene kept his job.

The next season, 1962, the club began to turn things around, thanks to the production of the young Phillies players. The Associated Press writers’ poll named Gene the 1962 National League Manager of the Year. The 1963 Philadelphia team kept winning under his leadership.

In 1964 the Phillies team seemed headed for the franchise’s first flag since the 1950 Whiz Kids club. They were 90-60 and 6 1/2 games up on St. Louis and Cincinnati with 12 games to go. Then the September Swoon occurred as the Phils dropped the next nine contests. With the collapse the Phillies ended one game behind the Cardinals in the standings. Despite the collapse, Gene won the Associated Press polling for 1964 Manager of the Year.

From 1965 to 1967 the Phillies played better than .500 ball. In June 1968, 54 games into the season, Gene was discharged. Upon his departure, he had the most wins of any Phillies manager in the team’s history.

In 1969 he was given the helm of the majors’ inaugural foreign team, the Montreal Expos. In 1970 the Expos went 73-89 and his contract was further extended. In October 1975, after Montreal finished with a record of 75-87, Gene was fired. 

Calvin Griffith asked him to command the 1976 Minnesota Twins and in his five years, the club never got to the top of the American League West Division. Gene resigned in August 1980, and joined the California Angels as director of player personnel in February 1981. In May he was made the manager after Jim Fregosi was fired. 

California got to the postseason in 1982, but buckled. The Angels captured the division crown and nabbed the first two games of the American League Championship Series but could not hold off the Milwaukee Brewers and Gene was released.

Even as he was contending with health problems, baseball remained in his blood. In October 1984 the Angels rehired him as their manager. 

One strike separated Gene from a pennant and a trip to the World Series in 1986. In the ninth inning of Game Five of the 1986 ALCS, with the Red Sox on the verge of elimination, Dave Henderson powered a ninth-inning home run off Angels closer Donnie Moore. The Sox won the game in extra innings, and the remaining two games to take the series. 

Gene managed the Angels to a 75-87 record in 1987. During spring training 1988, at 62 years old and a chain smoker, he took ill and retired. 

In 1995 Bob Boone was named manager of the Angels, and he hired Gene as bench coach. It was the last season he ever suited up.

In 2004 Gene Mauch was inducted into the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame. On August 8, 2005, he died at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, at 79, after a long bout with lung cancer.