What MLB Looked Like In Jack McKeon’s First Year

You’ve probably heard by now that, at 80-years-old, Jack McKeon was just named the Marlins manager once again. This makes him the second oldest manager in baseball history behind only the legendary Connie Mack. While I don’t have any pithy SABR-analysis about how McKeon might help turn around the Marlins (seriously, the next person to figure out how to predict a manager’s impact on a team will be the first), McKeon’s return to the game gives me an excuse to look at what Major League Baseball looked like the first time a team hired him to be their skipper.

The year? 1973, when the Kansas City Royals made McKeon a manager for the first time at age 43. There were 12 teams in the American League, the Designated Hitter was being tried out for the first time in history, and he had a 29-year-old left fielder named Lou Piniella. Yeah. (Side note – how weird was Piniella’s prime? wRC+ from 26-31 of 107, 90, 138, 74, 111, and 39. He was Aubrey Huff before Aubrey Huff came along.)

Other fun fact from the 1973 Royals – their best player was John Mayberry, the father of the Phillies outfielder of the same name. But, really, that’s nothing – that team also featured Hal McRae, the father of Brian McRae, who retired from the game twelve years ago.

There are going to be a lot of age-related jokes about McKeon, and a few of them will even be funny. But while I can’t say anything about whether he’s going to help them win more games, McKeon is a character, and having him in the dugout will make Marlins games more interesting. And for that, I say welcome back Trader Jack.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


19 Responses to “What MLB Looked Like In Jack McKeon’s First Year”

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  1. unan. says:

    I was -16 years old when Jack started managing.

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  2. t ball says:

    When McKeon made his minor league debut in 1949, there was no interstate highway system and almost half of all roads were unpaved. There were 48 stars on the flag, the average MLB salary was just over $13,000, and major league teams spent about 17.6% of revenues on payroll. The average franchise was worth about $2.5 million.

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  3. Typical fangraphs comment says:

    Um, notgraphs? Notgraphs says hello. So there’s this thing called notgraphs…

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  4. NEPP says:

    The last time I made fun of McKeon’s age when he was named manager, the Fish won a World Series.

    This time I’ll just keep my mouth shut.

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  5. Jack Weiland says:

    When I saw the headline I thought it meant “What MLB Looked Like In Jack McKeon’s First Year” … as in, his ACTUALY first year. Ever. Freshly borned. Anyway: http://www.rison-dallas.com/images/1931DallasBaseball.jpg

    Also: 1931 was the year we adopted The Star Spangled Banner as our national anthem. Whoa.

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  6. CarterHayes says:

    Psh. It’s fine to mention that Pinella was a 29 year old left fielder, but that’s only half the story. Pinella wasn’t the only future manager on that team. Cookie Rojas, though played second, Hal McRae played some right field and occasionally DH’d, and Buck Martinez caught a handful of games.

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  7. joshcohen says:

    “seriously, the next person to figure out how to predict a manager’s impact on a team will be the first”

    interesting question. how much does the average FG reader think a manager impacts team WAR over the course of a season: +/- 0 WAR, +/- 1 WAR, +/- 5 WAR,?? obviously, deciding who to sit/start has a big impact (cough, chone figgins). bullpen configuration. defensive alignment assignments too. but also stuff like baserunning/stealing (think: ryan braun under ken macha). when i started thinking about this, i would have guessed negligible…but now idk

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    • PatsNats28 says:

      I think most sabermetrics people would admit that a motivational speaker and a computer would manage better than the managers in the game today. You’re basically looking for guys who won’t mess up… of course, this wouldn’t be reflected from a WAR perspective, but I would think that a computer would have a better WAR than most managers.

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      • kick me in the GO NATS says:

        I’ll bet the list of current and former MLB players who agree with you is very small if any at all.

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    • kick me in the GO NATS says:

      It has been many years since I read any articles related to this, but I recall managers can make as much as +/- 2 wins if they are real good or real bad. Very few were outside +/- 1. But you know that one win does really matter sometimes.

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  8. Pat the pragmatist says:

    Welcome back “Trader” Jack.

    How about the year he started managing in the pros?

    He took over the Fayetteville team June 11, 1955. 56 years ago this month.

    1955: The year “Rock around the clock” topped the charts. The begining of the rock and roll era.

    1955: The year Marty goes back to in “Back to the Future.”

    Connie Mack was still alive. So was Cy Young and Honus Wagner and many others who played in the 19th century. Young & Wagner passed on later that year and Mack the next, but they were still with us when Jack started his managing career.

    Albert Woolson the last surviving veteran of the Civil War was still alive in 55.

    I wonder if Jack could manage until 2015? The year that Marty and Doc go into the future in Back to the Future II?

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  9. Pat the pragmatist says:

    Jack McKeon was also managed in the AAA in 1962.

    The year Jamie Moyer was born.

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  10. donquixote says:

    Could we use a team’s Phythagorean win projections and them compare it to how many games they actually won?

    For example, in his book the Yankee Years, Joe Torre says that the Yankees outperformed their Phythagorean win projections every year from 2002-2007.

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