Les Mann

This article was written by Maurice Bouchard.

Philadelphia A’s star left-hander and future Hall of Famer Eddie Plank had scattered five hits and had not allowed a run as the Boston Braves batted in the top of the ninth in Game Two of the 1914 World Series. Unfortunately for Plank and his mates, Braves starter Bill James was pitching just as well. After the pesky Rabbit Maranville grounded out to short to start the ninth, Plank could be forgiven if he thought he was going to get out of the ninth without damage. The next batter, substitute third baseman Charlie Deal, 0-for-3 so far, had squandered a couple of earlier opportunities. Now, though, with the bases empty, he doubled over center fielder Amos Strunk’s head, then stole third with the pitcher James at the plate. Plank struck out James, and leadoff hitter Les Mann, just three years removed from high-school baseball, came to the plate.

Like Deal, the youngster Mann was not an everyday player. He was part of manager George Stallings’ platoon of outfielders. Les had not started Game One but had started against the lefty Plank. He hit just .247 during the regular season but had reached Plank for a single in the fifth. With a 2-and-2 count and Deal dancing off third, Mann flicked a Plank offering just out of the reach of second baseman Eddie Collins’s outstretched glove. Deal scored easily. The Braves hung on in the home half of the ninth and took a commanding lead in the World Series as they headed north to Boston.

Leslie Mann was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on November 18, 1892, to Samuel R. Mann, owner of a clothes cleaning business and a dye manufactory, and Minnie L. Schmidt, a first generation German-American.1 Leslie was the fifth of six children born between 1887 and 1895, the youngest of three sons.

Les, as he was known, went to the Whittier elementary school in Lincoln and showed athletic prowess early in his life. He likely learned sports from his older brothers. Channing and Les played baseball for St. Mark’s Sunday school starting in 1906 and the team regularly won city championships. The team formed the core of what would become Girard’s Indians, the first semipro uniformed traveling baseball team in Nebraska. After graduating from Whittier in the spring of 1907, Les went to Lincoln High School in the fall. An athletic standout for four years, he was as late as the 1970s considered (and may still be) the greatest athlete in the school’s history. He played football (halfback, kicker, and punter), basketball (guard), and baseball (third base); he was the first freshman at the school to play varsity in all three sports. Lincoln High won Missouri Valley championships in basketball and football during Les’s tenure at the school. He was very fast and won many individual honors in track, including first place in the 100- and 220-yard dashes in Nebraska state meets and Missouri Valley regional meets. In 1910 Mann placed second in both events in the National Track and Field Meet held in Chicago. A perennial letterman, he made All-State in football, basketball, and baseball in his senior year.

As a 16-year-old (perhaps), Mann played for the Nebraska City Foresters in the six-team, Class D Missouri-Iowa-Nebraska-Kansas (MINK) league in 1910 (as a third baseman) and 1911 (as an outfielder), hitting .292 in 78 games and .327 in 95 games respectively.

From Lincoln High Mann went to the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts. He went to Springfield, whose mission was to train Christian lay leaders, on the recommendation of George Pinneo, a Springfield alumnus and the director of the Lincoln Y. Pinneo was Mann’s coach at the Y and also at Lincoln High School. He was an early, positive influence on the impressionable Mann. (It is unclear, though, how Mann maintained his college eligibility after having played professional baseball for two summers.)

Mann did not disappoint at Springfield. He made the varsity football team as a freshman, the first to do so, and was also nominated for All-American honors. He starred in many games including a 9-5 upset of Syracuse on October 28, 1911, in Syracuse in which, although injured earlier in the game, he kicked a field goal and returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown, “with good interference and splendid sidestepping,” reported the Springfield Republican. Mann also played an important role in a game on November 23, 1912, in which Springfield hosted the Carlisle Indians with Jim Thorpe. Though the local eleven lost, 30-24, the Maroon made the game much more competitive than expected. It took one of Thorpe’s greatest games for Carlisle to prevail. Thorpe scored all 30 of Carlisle’s points (four touchdowns, three points after the touchdowns, and one field goal). Mann had two touchdown passes, a field goal, and three points after, accounting for 18 of Springfield’s 24 points. He also punted beautifully and returned kicks as well. After the game, Thorpe is said to have told Les, “We did not expect to have such opposition or meet such an athlete as you. We had to change our entire strategy; you changed the whole outcome of our game both offensively and defensively. We were lucky to win.”2 Thorpe, six years Les’s senior, and Mann would be teammates on the 1919 Boston Braves.

Mann also excelled in basketball and baseball at Springfield. The Boston Braves could not help but notice the athletic talent in their virtual backyard, and signed him early in 1912. (he had left school in early February) to a contract worth $150 per month. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Nebraskan was sent to Seattle in the Class B Northwestern League, where he played center field and helped the Giants to a 99-66 record and a championship. Les, a right-handed thrower and batter, hit .300 with 23 homers in 163 games. Based on his performance in Class B, Mann was drafted by the International League’s Buffalo (New York) Bisons for the 1913 season.

Mann was back on the gridiron for the Training College in the fall. In addition to the aforementioned Carlisle game, another highlight of the 1912 season occurred on October 26 in Burlington, Vermont. The Maroon beat the University of Vermont 7-0 with Mann running back a punt 60 yards for the only score.

Mann was voted captain of the Springfield football team at the end of the 1912 season even though his teammates knew it was unlikely he would return to play the following season. In fact, he did not play, it appears, because of fear of injury, not due to eligibility concerns. According to the Springfield Republican of October 6, 1913, his Braves contract prohibited him from playing football.

Mann, although busy with sports and school, found time to contribute to the local amateur athletic scene during his stay in Springfield. He refereed local high-school and YMCA basketball games. He coached club football and he even coached the Hartford Carpet Company’s company rugby team, the Brussels, in nearby Thompsonville, Connecticut.

Again leaving school early, Mann reported to Buffalo as expected but played in only nine games for the Bisons in April 1913. Former Seattle teammates Bill James and Bert Whaling, each now with the Braves, recommended Les to their manager, Gentleman George Stallings. Bill McKechnie, the Braves’ incumbent in center field, was waived to the Yankees and Mann was called up to Boston. Interestingly, Stallings, to get his Mann, had to trade his nephew, Art Bues, to the Bisons. Mann made his major-league debut on April 30 at the South End Grounds in Boston against the Philadelphia Phillies. He played center field, batted sixth, went 0-for-4 and did not have a putout. His first major-league hit came two days later, in the ninth game played at brand-new Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Mann hit a single off Superbas southpaw Frank Allen. In the ninth, with the scored tied 1-1, Mann hit an inside-the-park, three-run home run (on a ball that Brooklyn center fielder Charley – later Casey – Stengel misjudged) to lead Boston to the 4-1 victory. In the game account, the New York Times reported noted Mann’s “long running catch” as an example of his “high-class fielding.”3

About 2,000 Springfield fans flocked to the Braves game on July 19 to honor native son Rabbit Maranville but honored their adopted son Mann as well, with a black leather traveling bag. In the eighth, with the score knotted, 4-4, Mann, facing Chicago Cubs starter Larry Cheney, hit a ground-rule double into the overflow crowd of 15,000. He moved to third on a sacrifice and scored the eventual winning run on a squeeze play.4 Mann finished his rookie season reasonably well for the fifth-place Braves. He played in 120 games, 103 of them in center field. He hit .253 with 24 doubles, 7 triples, 3 homers, and 51 RBIs. His 24 doubles led the team and he was among the team leaders in a few other categories. Mann stole seven bases but was caught 16 times.

Mann went back to Springfield in the fall and although he was precluded from playing football, he helped coach McCurdy by coaching the quarterbacks and the punters. He also continued to referee basketball and coach club teams when asked.

Not much was expected of the 1914 Braves, who had finished 31½ games behind the pennant-winning Giants in 1913. In spring training, manager Stallings would commit to only “select company.”5 After the Braves lost a doubleheader to Brooklyn on the Fourth of July, just matching the previous year’s fifth-place finish looked like a challenge, but the Braves were about to embark on one of the greatest extended displays of winning baseball in major-league history. Earning their moniker, the Miracle Braves, Boston won 72 of the next 91 games (including a sweep of the Philadelphia A’s in the World Series), a .791 clip. While his team was putting together an amazing season, Mann was not equaling his rookie campaign. Undoubtedly, this was a disappointment for Mann and for Braves management. They likely would have expected their young center fielder to blossom in his sophomore season. He did have a few more triples and one more home run. He walked a bit more and struck out less often. However, his batting average dipped and he was driving in fewer runs. Right-handed pitchers were especially troublesome and eventually Stallings benched Mann against right-handed pitching

Mann played in three of the four games in the World Series, starting Game Two against A’s left-handed starter Eddie Plank. In Game Three he ran for catcher Hank Gowdy in the bottom of the 12th and scored the winning run, and came off the bench in the bottom of the sixth in Game Four when A’s lefty Herb Pennock entered the game. Mann was the left fielder when the A’s Stuffy McInnis made the final out. Les had a tough time getting to the dugout as exuberant fans mobbed him and tore off his uniform.6 He was 2-for-7 (.286) in the World Series with a big RBI and a critical run scored.

Mann was back in Springfield on October 15 (the Series ended October 13) and attended classes on the 16th. He did not complete the semester, however. He stayed in Springfield long enough to be feted, with Rabbit Maranville, by the Springfield city fathers and by his classmates at the Training College. Mann returned to Lincoln at the end of the month, to a parade, many honors, and celebrations. He planned to return to college in January for the spring semester.

Mann made $2,100 playing for the Braves in 1913 and $2,700 in 1914. He asked for $4,000 for 1915. Further, he asked for a waiver of the release clause, in effect a guaranteed contract. In return, Mann allegedly promised to hit .300. The Braves offered $3,000, an offer Mann declined. His refusal of the Braves’ offer reportedly caused much snickering among players who thought he was lucky to get a raise, Stallings having “bolstered up” his outfield. Turkey Mike Donlin, erstwhile Giant and no doubt still smarting from being on the receiving end of last season’s Miracle, claimed, “[T]hat bird [i.e., Mann] is the luckiest man I ever saw. He always throws to the wrong base, and yet someone always blunders into his throw and is retired, never thinking for a minute that he will be bone enough to throw to the wrong base with the play right in front of him.”7 An anonymous reporter wrote, “[o]ther players say that (Mann) thinks about as fast as the fellows who steal third with that base occupied.” On his return trip to Springfield from Lincoln, Mann met Joe Tinker in Chicago. Tinker managed the local Federal League franchise, the Whales. The ChiFeds offered Mann an “iron clad” two-year deal, likely at $4,000 per season, as well as a $1,000 signing bonus. Les jumped to the upstart league, signing his contract on February 19, 1915, and had a great year.8 He hit .306 in 135 games and led the league in triples with 19 (interestingly, he only had 12 doubles). He had career highs in many offensive categories while helping to lead the Whales to the Federal League pennant.

The Federal League ceased operations after the 1915 season. As part of its “peace accord” with the National and American Leagues, many of the ChiFed contracts, including Mann’s, were assumed by the Cubs. Mann played 373 games for Chicago over the next three seasons, averaging .278 with 20 doubles, 9 triples, 2 homers, and 43 runs driven in. His best year was his last full year, 1918. Although still only 25, Mann was named captain of the team and did not disappoint. He led the team in doubles (27) and extra-base hits (36), and was among the team leaders in batting average, runs scored, triples, RBIs, and stolen bases. He played in 129 of the Cubs’ 131 games. More importantly, he led the Cubs from a fifth-place finish in 1917 to a pennant in 1918, their first since 1910.

The 1918 season was unusual due to the World War. Players were subject to the “work or fight” rule, and were either being drafted or were leaving their teams for jobs that were unequivocally essential. (Baseball’s status as an essential job was unclear all season.) Mann, for example, left the Cubs on August 29, 1917, to work as a physical education instructor (under the aegis of the YMCA) at Camp Logan, near Houston, Texas. While he was not in the Army, Mann’s job was considered essential and he was exempt from the draft. He was reluctant to leave the job for baseball in 1918, fearing his exemption would be lost. Ultimately he was granted a furlough from his YMCA job, allowing him to return to the Cubs in March 1918.9

With attendance down substantially and increasing clamor for able-bodied men to be fighting instead of playing, baseball’s National Commission decided to end the season after play on September 2. Even before the Series started, some players were irritated with the projected size of the World Series share. Earlier in the season the American and National Leagues changed the formula for how the players’ share was calculated. Many owners thought the World Series players were making too much money from the Series. The new formula called for the second-, third-, and fourth-place teams in each league to share in the pool. Further, the formula capped the Series-winning share at $2,000 per player and the losers’ share at $1,400. Most players in the 1918 World Series thought those numbers were guaranteed. The owners and the National Commission thought otherwise. Finally, the Cubs players and their American League opponents, the Boston Red Sox, were forced to contribute 10 percent of their World Series share to the war effort. Once the National Commission, ever worried about its image, went public with this plan, there was no way for the players to oppose it. Doubtless many players would have contributed something anyway, but they did not want to be forced.

Attendance for the first four games of the Series, the only four that mattered for the players’ pool, was abysmal, just 70 percent of the previous year’s total. Players realized before Game Four that their World Series bonuses would be the lowest in history. The 10 percent tariff stung that much more. Mann and Boston’s captain, Harry Hooper, were the leaders and spokesmen for the players. They met several times during the first five games of the series, including on the train during the travel day from Chicago. Mann and Hooper helped avoid a work stoppage prior to Game Four, but when the final attendance numbers were announced, the players, including Mann and Hooper, demanded action. They tried to meet with the National Commission but were rebuffed repeatedly. Consequently, the players refused to take the field prior to Game Five in Boston, hoping to get the attention of the commission and to force it to guarantee $1,500 per player for the winners and $1,000 for the losers. It was all in vain. The players had no leverage. The fans and the press were against them and the commission threatened to donate the players’ money to charity if they did not play. Reality set in and the players took the field an hour or so past the scheduled time. The Cubs won that game but the Red Sox took Game Six and the championship. Mann appeared in every game and had just five hits in 22 at-bats with two RBIs. He did have a sensational catch of a long fly to left in Game Five when, despite tripping on Duffy’s Cliff, the incline in deep left field, caught Hack Miller’s effort while seated on the hill.

While the World Series uncertainty was unfolding, Mann’s wife of two years, Norfolk, Nebraska, native Jessie Cooper, was ninth months pregnant. She gave birth to their only child, Leslie Jr., on September 17 in Chicago six days after the Series concluded in Boston.

Mann began the 1919 season very poorly, hitting just .095 (2-for-21) in April. Although he raised his average as the weather got warmer, including .277 in July, on August 2 he was traded with infielder Charlie Pick back to his original team, the Boston Braves, for 33-year-old veteran infielder Buck Herzog. Mann’s second stint in Boston did not last as long as the first. He played in 40 games for the Braves in 1919 and 115 in 1920 (hitting .283 and .276 respectively). His average was respectable but his power numbers were way down. He was not stealing bases or getting the extra-base hits he had in the past.

The seventh-place Braves needed more production from its left fielder. In November 1920 the Braves sold Mann’s contract to the St. Louis Cardinals. Mann’s average improved dramatically in St. Louis but his playing time diminished as well. One highlight from the 1921 season came at Sportsman’s Park on June 13 at the expense of New York Giants left-hander Art Nehf. Mann hit home runs off Nehf in his first two at-bats. This game may have been in John McGraw’s mind when, five years later, he told reporters, “Against a left-hander, I’d rather have Mann up there in the pinch than any other hitter in the National League. He knows he can hit them, and they know he hits them.”10 By 1922, though, Mann was not an everyday player, appearing in just 84 games (the fewest to that point in his career) with 147 at-bats.

In early August 1922, Mann received a curious letter from Giants pitcher Shufflin’ Phil Douglas. The Cardinals and Giants had been battling for the pennant all summer, with the Giants holding a half-game lead after play on August 5. Douglas, a teammate of Mann’s with the 1918 Cubs, was a very effective pitcher at times (he led the league in ERA in 1922) but was also an alcoholic. After a couple of rough outings and borderline criminal treatment by John McGraw, the big pitcher wrote a letter to Mann offering to quit the Giants if “the goods” were delivered to his house. The implication was that the Giants would be hard-pressed to win the pennant without Douglas, paving the way for the Cardinals to win it. Mann, a Christian, a non-gambler, and by all accounts as upstanding a citizen as could be found in the major leagues, was an unfortunate choice as penpal for Douglas. Shufflin’ Phil realized his mistake almost immediately and attempted to call Mann in Boston, where the Cardinals were playing the Braves. It was too late, though. Mann had already shown the letter to manager Branch Rickey, who advised him to inform Commissioner Kenesaw M. Landis. Judge Landis banned Douglas, then 32, from baseball for life. Mann later wrote, in relation to another matter, that he thought the Douglas letter was a frame-up for him: Unspecified people wanted to “get” Mann and if Mann ignored the letter from Douglas, these people would use the inaction to get Mann banned from baseball. No reason was given for this except that Mann did not approve of gambling in the clubhouse (e.g., card games for money) and this put him at odds with virtually all his teammates and coaches.11

Mann, now in his 30s, was strictly a platoon player, yet limited playing time seemed to agree with him. He had another two-homer day on May 11, 1923, at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. Mann did not start the game, but when Phillies pitcher Lefty Weinert relieved starter Petie Behan, Mann was called into service. He hit a two-run shot in the sixth and a solo shot in the eighth, part of a 14-run losing effort (the Phillies scored 20). He had ten multihit games although he appeared in just 38 of the Cardinals’ 80 games in 1923. Mann, though hitting a gaudy .371 (33-for-89) for the Cardinals, was waived to the Reds in mid-July. In Cincinnati he was the fifth outfielder and played in just eight games, getting only one at-bat over the next three weeks.

Disgusted and homesick, Mann went home to Nebraska and was suspended by the National League. The homesickness did not last, however. Mann latched on with an independent team in Creston, Iowa, for a few games until Judge Landis told him to desist.12 Reds owner August Herrmann expected to have Mann back with the Reds for the 1924 season but was apparently surprised to learn that his player, for whom he had paid $10,000, was suspended by the league. He was also apparently surprised to learn that Mann wanted to retire and that the Cardinals knew it before they sold him to the Reds. Mann told Herrmann in April that he was going to retire and asked for his release. Hermann could not release Mann until he was reinstated by the league. After a series of arcane bureaucratic maneuvers and a change of heart by Mann, in early June, he was transferred to the Braves for his third incarnation with that team.13

Mann played the remainder of the 1924 season with the Braves, all of the next two seasons and 29 games in 1927 before being waived to the Giants on July 18. John McGraw, tired of being on the receiving end of Mann’s prowess against lefties, now had a veteran right-handed batter on his bench. Mann, who had an occasional start in the outfield, hit .328 (.352 against southpaws) and slugged .507 in 67 at-bats for the third-place Giants. The Giants competed for the 1928 pennant with the Cardinals all season before finally settling on second place. Mann, in his final major-league season, was McGraw’s fourth outfielder, getting into 82 games, his most since 1922. He hit .264 with very little power and 25 RBIs. He played 68 games in the outfield, mostly in right, but played center and left as well. Mann was hitting in the low .300s in early June and was the cleanup batter for several games in June and July. He played his last major-league game on September 30, 1928, at the Polo Grounds. He had a single in two at-bats. Except for a very brief stint with the Buffalo Bisons in 1929, Mann’s playing career was over.

Mann played 16 seasons in the big leagues. He played in 1,498 games and hit .282 with 203 doubles, 106 triples, 44 homers, and 503 RBIs. He struck out about 40 percent more often than he walked (464 strikeouts vs. 324 walks). Although very fast, he was not a productive basestealer. His best year was 1918, when he pilfered 21 sacks. It was good for tenth place in the league but not even half of league leader Max Carey’s 58. Mann played 1,368 games in the outfield with 173 assists and 97 errors (.966 fielding percentage). He twice led the National League in assists among left fielders but in those same years, 1918 and 1919, he led the league in errors as well. Les had at least six four-hit games. The first came on May 19, 1916, and the last came on July 18, 1925.

Mann may have retired from playing (officially, he was released by the Giants) but he was far from retiring. From his earliest experience in sports at the Whittier School and St. Mark’s to the day he died, Mann was a tireless promoter and advocate for amateur sports, especially baseball. Except for managing the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Senators in 1934 to an eighth-place finish in the New York-Penn League, he spent the rest of his life working in amateur athletics.

While still an active player, Mann spent the offseason engaging his passion. He was the director of physical education and basketball coach at the Rice Institute (now Rice University) from 1919 through 1922. He was the head basketball and baseball coach at Indiana University in 1923 and 1924. Perhaps as early as 1919 he coached at Amherst College as well. He went back to Springfield in 1925 to assume the head coaching job in basketball and baseball through 1928. He continued as an assistant football coach in 1929. In December 1929 the American and National League owners hired Mann to conduct an educational tour of the country. The audience was baseball coaches working in the amateur ranks. Major-league baseball donated $60,000 per year to improve amateur instruction and Mann was hired to promulgate that message.

Mann organized a baseball school that had Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and George Sisler as instructors. By 1924 Mann had a business called Leslie Mann Coaching System based in Bloomington, Indiana (where Indiana University is located). He was an early adopter of film to enhance baseball and football instruction. His company letterhead promoted the use of “Stereopticon Pictures,” an allusion to Mann’s invention, the Mannscope (sometimes called the Mannoscope). This device, patent number 1,645,108, was a film projector capable of stopping on an arbitrary frame, allowing the instructor to illustrate the finer details of a skill. The Mannscope, capable of operating in reverse as well, was a precursor to the video systems prevalent today in all levels of sports instruction.

On February 19, 1931, Mann, secretary-treasurer of the Amateur Athletic Federation, announced the formation of the United States Amateur Baseball Association (USABA, later the United States Baseball Congress), whose main purpose was sponsorship of an international tournament. He wanted baseball to become an Olympic sport and the tournament, he hoped, would showcase the sport. The tournament, to be played in the following year in Los Angeles or San Francisco, would include eight teams from the United States and eight from outside the US (Hawaii and seven foreign countries). Mann was named national director of the USABA and the board included well-known college coaches as well as Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Association. Les tried but failed to get the US Olympic Committee to include baseball as a demonstration sport in Los Angeles in 1932. (The committee chose football and lacrosse.)

Mann, having taken a team of all-star baseball amateurs, including future major leaguer Jeff Heath, to Japan to play against Tokyo University in October 1935, persuaded the Germans to allow baseball at the 1936 Berlin Games. Though the International Baseball Congress was created at the Games with 21 nations joining, no other country sent a baseball team to Berlin, so Mann staged a single exhibition game before 90,000 (Mann often claimed there were 125,000) mostly confused Germans. Mann split his contingent, college players who could afford the $500 traveling expenses, into two squads who played for seven innings in the poorly-lit Olympic Stadium. Prior to the game, in an effort to please the crowd, the American players stood on the sidelines and gave what the Associated Press called a Nazi salute, a characterization later disputed by at least some of the players.14 The game itself was hardly artistic, but Mann’s boys had shown enough to get a commitment from the International Olympic Committee to make baseball an official sport at the 1940 games in Japan.

Mann led a team of American amateurs to England in August 1938 to play for the John Moores Trophy. In addition to the US and England, Canada, Australia, France, Holland, and Belgium all provided teams. The All-England team bested the Americans four games to one, a result Mann hoped would shock the youth of America into action.15 After World War II began, Mann, who now had an office in the Orange Bowl in Miami (and would referee the odd football game), moved the John Moores Series (as it was now called) to Havana in 1939 and 1940. The US did not manage a victory in 1939 but was more competitive in 1940 before losing to the Cubans again. The 1940 tournament, with teams from Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Nicaragua as well as Cuba and the United States, was exciting and a huge success with some 100,000 people seeing the games.16

It was not the international competition for which he had yearned, but the ever-enthusiastic Mann was not deterred. He immediately made plans for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo. (Mann had high regard for the level of play in Japan.) He started to plan for tournaments in Japan in 1937 and 1939. Neither tournament took place. As late as 1939 Mann hoped to establish Olympic baseball in London in the 1944 Games, but the 1940 and 1944 games were canceled because of the war. It was not all disaster for Mann, though. Through the USABA he was able to get baseball on the Olympic radar at least, where it had not been since 1912, and between 1931 and 1943 the USABA introduced baseball to 27 countries. During World War II, Mann worked for the USO and eventually was its director of athletics, based in Hawaii.

After the war Mann moved his family to San Gabriel, California, where he continued promoting international amateur baseball and baseball education. In 1946 he founded the United States Amateur Football Association (USAFA), the gridiron analog of the USABA.17 Mann was also secretary of the International Amateur Football Federation. His idea was to make American football an Olympic sport. In December 1948 four teams – the United States, Canada, Hawaii, and Mexico – competed for the Amos Alonzo Stagg trophy at Gilmore Stadium in Hollywood, California. Frank Finch, reporting in the Los Angeles Times, wrote, “[f]inancially and artistically, the series was a flop.” The four games drew a total of 7,100 fans. Mann and his backers took a financial beating. Although he said at the time that he would continue the series the following year, the A.A. Stagg trophy was retired.18 Mann continued to promote amateur baseball and football through the 1950s. He apparently (it was planned, but it is not clear that it happened) took an all-star amateur baseball team to South Africa for ten weeks at the end of 1955.

Athletic honors eventually came Mann’s way. In 1957 he was the 23rd person inducted into the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame. When Springfield College decided to create an athletics hall of fame in the early 1970s, the three giants in the inaugural class were basketball inventor James Naismith, football coaching pioneer Amos Alonzo Stagg, and Leslie Mann.

In the early 1960s Mann worked as a sports specialist for the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation department. On January 14, 1962, Mann, reportedly still in excellent physical condition, suffered a fatal heart attack while driving. He was survived by his wife, Jessie, and their son, Leslie, Jr. After a funeral service at Todd Memorial Chapel in Pomona, California, he was cremated.


This biography is included in "The Miracle Braves of 1914: Boston's Original Worst-to-First World Series Champions" (SABR, 2014), edited by Bill Nowlin.




Ty Waterman and Mel Springer, The Year the Red Sox Won the Series (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999)

Allan Wood, Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox (San Jose, California: Writers Club Press, 2000)

The Baseball Encyclopedia. 9th ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1993) 


Boston Globe

Chicago Daily Tribune

Christian Science Monitor

Hartford Courant

New York Times

Pittsburgh Sunday Post

Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican

The Sporting News

Times Record, Troy, NewYork

Pete Cava, “Baseball in the Olympics.” Citius, Altius, Fortius  1 no. 1 (1992): 7-15,

Mike Lynch, “Phil Douglas.” SABR BioProject. Accessed January 1, 2013

Channing Mann, compiler. Portrait of a Champion: A Tribute to Les Mann, November 18, 1893- January 14, 1962. (Springfield, Massachusetts: Springfield College, 1972)

Joseph L. Reichler, ed. The World Series (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978)

M.E. Travaglini, “Olympic Baseball 1936: Was es Das?” In National Pastime, Winter 1985, 46–55




1 Sources vary as to the date of Mann’s birth. Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, 9th ed,, the 1900 US census, and Mann’s death certificate have 1893. The Spalding Guide (1915) has 1891 while his World War I draft card, completed and signed by Mann, has 1892.

2 “Springfield College – 1911-1914,” Portrait of a Champion, 20.

3 “Stengel Misjudges Mann’s Long Hit,” New York Times, May 3, 1913, 12.

4 “Braves Do Their Part by Winning,” Boston Globe, July 20, 1913, 9.

5 “Braves Fourth of ‘Better,’ ” Boston Globe, April 12, 1914, 16.

6 Charles E. Parker, “Frenzied Fans Swarm Diamond,” Boston Post, October 14, 1914.

7 “Mann Hold-out Proves His Nerve,” [unknown newspaper], March 16, 1915.

8 “Mann in Line,” [unknown newspaper], February 20, 1915.

9 “Mitchell May Lose Services of Les Mann,” [unknown paper], March 9, 1918.

10 Frederick G. Lieb, “Les Mann, ‘Miracle Braves’ Outfielder, Succumbs at 68,” The Sporting News, January 24, 1962.

11 Mike Lynch, “Phil Douglas,” SABR BioProject, Accessed January 1, 2013.

12 Leslie Mann to Auggust [sic] Herrman, May 13, 1924. Leslie Mann clippings file, Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

13 Leslie Mann to A G Hermann [sic], April 22, 1924, and August Herrman to Leslie Mann, May 14, 1924. Leslie Mann clippings file, Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

14 “Teams Give Nazi Salute,” New York Times, August 13, 1936, 14.

15 “Mann is Rapidly Nearing Olympic Baseball Goal,” Christian Science Monitor, October 13, 1938, 10.

16 Ed Rumill, “In the Dugout: Baseball Congress Moves Forward,” Christian Science Monitor, January 8, 1941, 15.

17 Al Wolf, “Local Men Performed With Braves in 1914,” Los Angeles Times, September 29, 1948, C2.

18 Frank Finch, “U.S. All-Stars Sink Hawaii,” Los Angeles Times, December 27, 1948, C1.

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