Jack McKeon is considered one of the biggest icons in the history of the Miami Marlins organization.
When discussing the greatest manger in Miami Marlins history, there are a few names to talk about. The organization has had some heavy hitters who have filled the role of skipper in the past and the present.
Jim Leyland, Jack McKeon, Fredi Gonzalez, Joe Girardi, Rene Lachemann, and Don Mattingly to name a few. But has there been one who has been as impactful on the organization as McKeon in the early years of the franchise’s development?
As part of the continuing discussion of the greatest ever to put on a Marlins uniform in the 27-year history of the franchise, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com asks the most important question – which manager was the best ever. McKeon won the debate, hands down, but that does not discredit the other men who have sat in his chair and tried to produce a winning product on the field in a town starving for baseball success.
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"“After getting off to a 16-22 start in 2003, the Marlins made a managerial change on May 11 that dramatically reversed the course of the franchise’s season.” Frisaro writes.“On that day, Jack McKeon came out of retirement at age 72 to replace Jeff Torborg. Larry Beinfest, the club’s general manager then, called McKeon a ‘resurrection specialist,’ based on his ability to turn around the Padres and Reds in previous stints.”"
Not only did McKeon do that, but he helped the Miami Marlins bring another World Series title to South Florida by beating the New Yankees to earn that distinction. It’s one of the greatest stories in Marlins’ history, if not the best. While more established baseball organizations haven’t been that successful in a quarter-decade, the Marlins are still currently a work in progress with Mattingly now steering a ship full of young talent that should make a difference in MLB over the next five seasons.
As a side not, three years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting McKeon at an afternoon game here in Jacksonville while the Jumbo Shrimp were in town. Having the chance to talk balls and strikes and the growth of the minor league system with someone who has forgotten more about this game than I will ever know is still a highlight of my professional career.
The 2003 season was magical, as Frisaro continues to explain.
"“With McKeon at the helm, the Marlins went 75-49 for the remainder of the season, clinching the National League Wild Card with a 91-71 record,” he added. “They then went on to shock the sports world by winning the World Series in six games against the Yankees.”"
During his tenure with the Miami Marlins, McKeon put together a 281-257 record with the club to become the Marlins’ all-time leader in wins. It’s a record that should be eclipsed this season – if there is an MLB season. Mattingly currently has 276 wins while wearing a Marlins No. 8.
Still, McKeon is the gold standard.
"“In ’03, McKeon became the oldest MLB manager to lead his club to a World Series championship,” Frisaro added. “He had two stints managing the Marlins, from 2003-05, and he returned as interim manager in 2011, at age 80, when he replaced Edwin Rodríguez.”"
For his career, McKeon spent 16 years in the big leagues. He has career record of 1,051-990. He managed 17 seasons in the Minors, with a record of 1,146-1,123.