Florida Marlins’ Jack McKeon runs a tight ship!!


Florida Marlins skipper Jack McKeon — this octogenarian runs a tight ship!!

When John McKeon took over the last-place Florida Marlins on June 20, 2011, he told an interviewer that he doesn’t wear a hearing aid.  He says it’s a principle that he has developed during the last few years of his six decades in baseball.  He says, “I don’t use the hearing aids because I don’t want to see a lot of things, and I don’t want to hear a lot of things.”  He took took the job managing the Marlins, for the second time, the day after then-manager Edwin Rodríguez quit.  In 2003, the Marlins hired the 72-year-old McKeon to take over a club filled with young, inexperienced players.  That year, McKeon’s Marlins beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.  In spite of his being an octogenarian, the odds of McKeon winning the World Series last year (1 in 75, according to Vegas.com) were longer than the odds of him dying (1 in 15.5, according to Social Security’s actuarial tables). 

McKeon’s resume is a long one.   He previously managed the Kansas City Royals (1973 to 1975), the Oakland Athletics (1977 and 1978), the San Diego Padres (1988 to 1990), and the Cincinnati Reds (1997 to 2000).  From 1981 to 1990, he served as general manager of the Padres, forming the team which won the 1984 National League pennant.   As a player, McKeon, a catcher, spent his entire career in the minor leagues. He managed in the farm system of the original Washington Senators franchise, and its successor, the Minnesota Twins.  He then led the Omaha Royals of the American Association, from 1969 through 1972, and won two league championships.  He also managed the Richmond Braves and the Denver Bears during the 1970s.

McKeon was named National League Manager of the Year in 1999 and 2003.  The latter award was a result of leading the Marlins to a World Series victory (the Marlins had a record below .500 when he took the job as their manager during the season). With that victory, he became, at 72, the oldest manager to win the World Series, winning against the New York Yankees.  He’d been awaiting that victory since growing up in South Amboy, New Jersey and attending Yankee games as a child.  On October 2, 2005, just after the Marlins won the last game of the 2005 season, McKeon announced that he would not be returning the following season.  Although, McKeon led the Marlins to three of the six winning seasons in franchise history, the Marlins wanted a managerial change.  Players complained that McKeon was too abrasive, and clubhouse tension mounted.  Yet, on June 20, 2011, after manager Edwin Rodriguez resigned, the Florida Marlins held a press conference to announce that McKeon would again be named manager, this time on an interim basis. “I don’t need this job but I love it,” McKeon has said, in taking over a team that had lost 10 straight and 18 of its last 19 games.  He retired after the conclusion of the 2011 season.

While there are at least a dozen chief executive officers in this country even older than McKeon (i.e.-Hong Kong-based Run Run Shaw is 104 years old) none of them run an organization comprised of men in their early 20s.  Yet this kind of management challenge doesn’t faze McKeon, who told Bloomberg, “I got nine grandchildren, I’m in tune with what’s going on.”  He’s not concerned with what goes on on Twitter or Facebook.  McKeon, may be a nice man, but was also known as a tough manager.  When he was first named manager, in 2003, McKeon once locked the clubhouse doors and required players to have bathroom passes.  He told his players they couldn’t hang out in the clubhouse during games!  In fact, during his first game of the season, he benched his best player, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, for tardiness; and pulled pitcher Randy Choate in the middle of a count.  Additionally, David Samson, the team’s president and McKeon’s boss says, “An octogenarian is the perfect person to manage the Marlins, because he never needs any sleep at all” (referring to the belief that the older you get, the less sleep you need.)  Regardless of his age, McKeon has been known for turning around franchises.  He is proof positive, however, that age is just a number.