December 13, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Today, one of baseball’s best managers has a birthday—Davey Johnson of the Nationals. In fact, he’s not only one of the best—he’s also the oldest. Today Davey Johnson turns 70.
That seems surprising to me; the image in mind of Johnson is quite a bit younger. I always think of him as Mets manager in the 1986 World Series. But that was over a quarter-century ago. Sure he was middle-aged then, but that makes him older now.
Johnson might seem younger because he was out of the public eye for so long. He managed four franchises from the mid-1980s until 2000, when he was in his 40s and 50s. He was 57 when the Dodgers sacked him and while that isn’t very young it also isn’t terribly old for a manager. Until the Nationals came calling, Johnson hadn’t managed since then.
In fact, Johnson is barely a decade younger than his former manager Earl Weaver. That boggles the mind. Weaver’s Hall of Fame dugout career ended around the same time that Johnson’s lengthy career as skipper began. They seem like creatures from a different age. But Weaver just passed away at age 82, only a dozen years older than Johnson. Though Johnson played for him in Baltimore, Weaver was a young manager—just 38 when he began—and Johnson was a veteran player.
Jim Leyland has always looked old, even when he was in his 40s, but he’s actually a tick younger than Johnson. Tony LaRussa managed forever, but he’s a few years junior to Johnson.
Johnson is a little younger than Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre, but then again those guys retired a few years ago. Johnson is actually older than Cox was when he filled out his final lineup card. On Opening Day 2013, Johnson will be almost the exact same age Torre was in his final game—actually, a tad older.
A half-century ago the Yankees fired Casey Stengel after the 1960 World Series, saying he’d become too old to do the job. You know how old the popular image of Stengel is? Stengel was 70 years and three months old when the Yankees fired him—the same age Johnson is now.
It can be exhausting managing a team. It’s an every-day job, with lots of pressure, which requires considerable focus for each three-hour game, and forces tons of travel. It can wear on someone, and many in their 70s wouldn’t have the wherewithal to deal with it.
Some men have managed in their 70s. Stengel did with the Mets, but that was a complete disaster. Felipe Alou managed the Giants at age 70 but he retired at age 71.
Connie Mack famously lasted until he was 87. That’s a weird case, though. He also owned the team and by the end was more caretaker than manager. Still, at age 70 Mack was still the skipper and the A’s had a nice winning season. (It proved to be their last for a while as Mack had to sell off talent in the hostile economic environment of the Great Depression.)
The outstanding success story for a geriatric manager is Jack McKeon. He didn’t manage at age 70, but shortly after then became Marlins manager, and at age 72 won a world title. He managed a little longer before retiring—and then made the very unexpected return to the dugout in 2011 on an interim basis at age 80.
Still, that’s it. Those are all the people who managed in the majors in their 70s. Johnson could do a good job this year, but you shouldn’t expect him to last too much longer.
Regardless, he’s still on the job and still doing well—and he’s still doing it 70 years after his birth.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d prefer to skim.
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