Kevin Reid on Guillen and McKeon(Ozzie and Jack)

Posted by Andy Durham on April 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm under Professional | Read the First Comment

TWO BASEBALL GREATS INTERTWINED IN EACH OTHER’S CAREER

Special to Greensborosports.com by Kevin Reid long-time Triad baseball writer/fan

McKeon and Guillen. Those names aren’t spelled particularly alike, but they
do indeed rhyme. And that’s poetic justice.

One has managed five different big league teams and enough minor league
teams to fill up a cruise ship. The other has only managed one team, but he
has been at it longer than his counterpart managed anywhere. One is a
79-year-old New Jersey native who has lived in Alamance County most of his
life; the other is a 46-year-old native of Venezuela, who has spent the
better part of his life in Chicago. One was a catcher who never played a big
league game and the other was a shortstop who spent 16 years as a player in
the big leagues. Both are extremely colorful, but in totally different ways.
Both have also won a World Series as a manager, but what is really
significant about this pair is the way their careers have interacted. While
they didn’t cross paths in spring training (Jack McKeon was in Florida,
while Ozzie Guillen, as usual, spent his spring training in Arizona) and
they didn’t see each other at the recent major-minor league games they
participated in in the Carolinas, both had opportunities to reminisce about
the other as these exhibition games were getting ready to begin.
On April 1 at Charlotte Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, S.C., Guillen pointed
out that it was none other than McKeon who started his career in
professional baseball.

“Jack signed me when I was 16 years old,” Guillen said. “He traded me, too.”
In 1980 McKeon was general manager of the San Diego Padres. He had been
notified by his scouts in Venezuela of the phenomenal young shortstop there
and decided to sign him before the competition did. By the age of 18,
Guillen batted an astronomical .347 in the California League and led it in
hits and runs. By 1984 Guillen had played well enough for the Padres
Triple-A team in Las Vegas that he showed he was ready for the majors. The
Padres had Garry Templeton (whose son would later play here for the A&T
Aggies) at shortstop then and Trader Jack, as the baseball world was calling
him, agreed with the White Sox on a trade that sent Guillen and three
players to Chicago for three players, including Lamar Hoyt, then one of the
most dominant pitchers in the game.

“We knew Ozzie was a hell of a player, but the only thing we could do was
give quality for quality, and that’s what we did. ” McKeon remembered during
an interview before the Florida Marlins game against the Greensboro
Grasshoppers at NewBridge Bank Park on April 3. “The first year we had
Lamar, he was the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star
game.”

Hoyt won that game and was named its MVP and went on to a 16-8 season.
Unfortunately for himself and the Padres, the talented right-hander’s career
derailed after that and he was out of baseball by 1987. On the other hand
Guillen was A.L. Rookie of the Year for the Sox in ’85 and remained the team’s
everyday shortstop through the 1997 season. Guillen played for the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Devil Rays before hanging up his spikes after the 2000 season.

Guillen coached the Montral Expos in 2002 and became third base coach for
the Marlin in 2003. Jeff Torborg was Florida’s manager at the time, but he
was replaced in May by McKeon. The rest is history. After receiving a call
from Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest at his Elon home, McKeon led the
Marlins from bottom of the N.L. East to victory in the World Series.
“Jack McKeon is a brilliant baseball man – brilliant,” Guillen said of the
man who signed and traded him. “He was an outstanding manager and an
outstanding teacher. I learned a lot from him”

Guillen also made a positive impression on McKeon while coaching on him
because Trader Jack still had another major role to play in Guillen’s
career.

“Jerry Reinsdorf is a good friend of mine,” McKeon noted. “He called me
after the 2003 season and asked for my opinion of Ozzie as a manager for his
club. Well, I thought and I gave Ozzie a high recommendation. Not that that
had anything to do with it, but they hired him.”

In 2005, his second year as manager, Guillen led the White Sox to their
first World’s Championship since 1917. He doesn’t credit McKeon’s influence
for the outstanding achievement. Then again, he doesn’t credit himself
either.

“I always believe you don’t win a World’s Championship because you manage
well,” Guillen replied. “You win a World’s Championship because the players
play good enough for you.”

Either way Reinsdorf was pleased and continues to be.

“When I see Jerry, he often says to me, ‘Hey, you gave me some good advice,
’” McKeon said. “I feel good about that.”

Like Guillen, McKeon remains coveted by his own team’s owner. Although he is
no longer managing the Marlins, McKeon, who moved to Alamance County while
playing for the old BurGra Pirates of the Carolina League in 1952, serves as
special adviser to Jeff Loria, the owner. He still travels and represents
the Marlins at the draft, but he can usually be found at NewBridge Bank Park
during a Hoppers contest, where he can study the organization’s South
Atlantic League farmhands. The appreciation for his baseball mind.goes far
beyond Loria. Just ask Guillen.

“I love the way Jack goes about his business,” Guillen said. “He’s a very
old-school man, and we need people to be old school in baseball. We need
people from the old school to teach the young players how to play the game.”


  • Christina said,

    Great Interview!!!!!!!!!!! Best writing, interviewing and info.! Thanks!
    a Photo or two would have been nice. But couldn’t ask for much more!