Jack McKeon 2007
When opportunity knocks, Jack McKeon answers. In early May of 2003 McKeon received a phone call at his Elon home to come back to baseball to manage the Florida Marlins. The cigar-puffing showman righted the underachieving Marlins’ ship, leading the team to an improbable World Series victory over the Yankees, winning his second Manager of the Year Award in the process.
This self-described “seasoned-citizen’’ has a way of blending the old with the new, something that has kept him at the top of his game during a lifetime in baseball.
“Your attitude determines your altitude,’’ says McKeon, 76. “The first time I was supposed to get a managing job, the league folded, but I didn’t quit. I finally did get a managing job at Fayetteville, I got hurt, and I got fired again. I went out and scouted, then I got another managing job. I kept getting fired and I kept bouncing back. The game keeps you young. The way I look at it, I’m just getting started.’’
That also is the title of McKeon’s biography. In addition to his managing accomplishments, McKeon earned the nickname “Trader Jack’’ for his ability to rebuild a franchise overnight as general manager of the San Diego Padres.
A former minor league catcher, McKeon was first signed to the Pittsburgh Pirates. McKeon was born in South Amboy, NJ, where he starred in baseball and basketball. He won four league championships as a minor league manager, including Wilson (1961) and High Point (1968).
He first managed in the majors with the Kansas City Royals in 1973 and owns a 1,011-940 record as a major league manager and is the only manager to win a thousand games in both the minors and majors.
Here are his keys to staying young and making the most of life:
· Enjoy each game, each pitch, nothing is promised.
· You are never too old to become older and never too old to become younger.
· Draw lessons from the past, don’t live in the past.
· Steer clear of too much self-examination; you don’t want the small stuff to make you sweat.
· Speak plainly and carry a big stogie.
· If effort lags, light ‘em up. Players need and want discipline.
· Play your hunches.
· Failure isn’t fatal.
· Have a role for your role players.
· When a player stumbles, help him up.
· The Good Lord has a plan for you.
· Get to the ballpark early.
· Never complain when your wife goes shopping.
· Always pack an extra box of cigars
McKeon and his wife Carol have been married 52 years. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He is a graduate of Elon University and was commencement speaker this past year.
McKeon just completed a DVD, Champions of Faith, in conjunction with the Catholic Church and MLB. He attends daily Mass and always makes sure to leave his cigar outside of church.
by Kevin Kernan (May 2007)