Bring back these old-timers

Jack McKeon proved success can come at any age. So why can't Earl Weaver or Sparky Anderson manage again?

Originally Published: December 16, 2003
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

The Baby Boom continues up in the front office but down in the dugout it is as dead as an August doubleheader in Detroit.

As teams gravitate toward ever younger general managers (the job requirements now include having your umbilical cord still attached), they demand ever older field managers for balance. They don't care whether a manager's bite is better or worse than his bark, just so long as that bite includes dentures.

Don Zimmer
Don Zimmer showed he's not afraid to jump into the fray at age 72.

Baseball is in the middle of an elderly movement and it has nothing to do with prunes.

Felipe Alou managed the Giants to 100 wins at age 68. Jack McKeon came out of retirement and guided the Marlins from last place in June to the World Series in October at age 72. Frank Robinson will be 69 next August. Joe Torre is eligible to draw social security. There are rumors of Pete Rose coming back to manage the Reds in 2005, by which time he would be 64.

But the real poster elder is Don Zimmer, the 72-year-old bench coach who charged onto the field in the heat of battle to attack Pedro Martinez last October. Forget that Zimmer was way out of line. Forget also that Pedro knocked him on his rear. The crucial point is that he went over the top at age 72. Will Pedro be so spry in four decades?

We need more old guys like Zimmer who retain their fight even while they can't find their car keys. We need more guys we can call "Pops'' and "Gramps.'' We need fewer managers sitting in front of computers and more managers -- a la former Pirates skipper Danny Murtaugh -- sitting back in their rocking chairs and watching "Matlock'' reruns. We need managers who talk about the weather, nap during the seventh inning stretch and spend their off days at the hardware store.

And win. Don't forget that.

In short, we need more guys like these guys:

Earl Weaver. He's 73 years old and hasn't managed in two decades but umpires still tremble at his name. Watching what he could do to a QuesTec machine is reason enough to yank him out of retirement.

Johnny Pesky. The Red Sox hired the wrong guy. Instead of tapping Terry Francona, they should have promoted from within and put Pesky where he belongs -- the manager's office. Pesky was a great player. He's been around the game for 60 years. He managed in three seasons, as recently as the 1980s. And most importantly, he's 84, providing Boston with someone to counter Zimmer. Or Bob Sheppard, as the need arises.

Sparky Anderson. He won 2,194 games. He won a World Series in both leagues. He's in the Hall of Fame. And he's still younger than McKeon -- he turns 70 in February. Let's put it this way. Were the Tigers better when Sparky was managing and Alan Trammell was playing shortstop or when Tram was managing and Sparky was unemployed?

Gene Mauch. The amazing thing about Mauch is that he's only 78, which means he was born in 1925. And yet somehow he invented the game.

Tommy Lasorda. No, just kidding.

Red Schoendienst. He played during World War II. He managed against Warren Spahn. If anyone hires him, he'll have managed in five consecutive decades. And the interesting thing is, he's still younger than Jesse Orosco. No, just kidding. He's 80, three years older than Orosco. But wouldn't you love to have someone named Red in the game again?

And finally ...

Billy Martin. Remember how disinterested the Yankees seemed against the Marlins in October? Billy is just the man to come in and kick some tail. Granted, he's been dead for 14 years but when has that stopped George Steinbrenner from getting the person he wanted?

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com