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.