Though he never played in the major leagues, McCarthy went on to become the winningest manager of all time, with 2,126 wins and a lifetime winning percentage of .615 - the highest in history. His seven world championships are shared only by Casey Stengel.
Over a 24-year period he achieved nine pennants: one with the Chicago Cubs and the rest with the Yankees, including four World Championships in a row from 1936-1939. His teams also placed second seven times, and he never finished out of the first division.
His Yankee teams in the late 1930s rank as some of the best ever, led by sluggers Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and Joe DiMaggio, talents like Tommy Henrich, Red Rolfe, Joe Gordon, George Selkirk and Frank Crosetti, and featuring terrific pitching from Hall-of-Famers Red Ruffing and Lefty Gómez, plus work from Spud Chandler, Monte Pearson, Bump Hadley and Johnny Murphy. McCarthy made pioneering use of relief pitching by playing Murphy out of the bullpen.
McCarthy became the manager of the Cubs in 1926 and led them to a pennant in 1929. Fired by the Cubs following the 1930 season, McCarthy in 1931 assumed the helm of a Yankee team that regarded him as a National League interloper; many of the Yankee veterans thought Babe Ruth should be the manager, a point of view that Ruth himself did not discourage. McCarthy never won Ruth over, but he did win the other players' loyalty and slowly molded his kind of undemonstrative and proficient team. In 1932, McCarthy became the first manager to capture pennants in both leagues. In the ensuing World Series the Yankees beat the Cubs in four games - a great moment of revenge for their manager. Then came three consecutive second-place finishes (and the unkind tag of "Second-Place Joe") before the Yankees' four consecutive World Championships in 1936-39.
His teams in the late 1930s were so good that many believed that the batboy could have taken them to a pennant. McCarthy resented this insinuation, perhaps rightly so. The late-1930s teams were arguably the best ever, but their manager used his tools effectively to win. In 1941 McCarthy won his sixth World Series in six tries as the Yankees' manager, but the following year his streak was broken by the Cardinals. The Yankees won the rematch 1943 Series in five games.
McCarthy's players respected him, most liked him, and some were devoted to him. But he was perceived by the public as dull. His trademark fat little cigars always nearby, the square-jawed, tenacious disciplinarian didn't have the same rapport with Larry MacPhail - who became his boss in 1945 - that he had enjoyed with Ed Barrow. On May 24, 1946, McCarthy resigned. He became the Red Sox' manager in 1948 and came within a hair of winning a pennant that year and again in 1949, before retiring for good early in the 1950 season. McCarthy died January 13, 1978 at the age of 90.
"Never a day went by that you didn't learn something from Joe McCarthy."
- Joe DiMaggio
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