Graybeards managing just fine

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You wanna win at baseball? Easy. Hire an old guy to manage your team. In this youth dominated world, it's Old-Timers' Day every day at the top of the baseball standings. The National League in particular is like an advertisement for AARP.

The Dodgers, best team in the majors, are managed by the oldest manager, Joe Torre, who just entered his 70th summer. In the NL Central, St. Louis is on top thanks to the aging wisdom of the 64-year-old Tony LaRussa. And leading the East, the world champion Phillies are managed by Charlie Manuel, who is 65. Manuel twice heard doctors give him up for dead. He managed the Indians a few years ago while wearing a colostomy bag. You can't run the guy off.

These champion geriatrics remind me of what Maurice Chevalier said in his dotage: "I'm too old for women, too old for that extra glass of wine. ... All I have left is the audience. But I have found it is quite enough."

The National League also boasts three other graybeards in their sixties. You could hire the whole bunch to do those interminable sales pitches for old people's remedies that dominate the network news commercials every night -- fixing their dentures, going to the bathroom at their leisure and taking the right medications to ward off dementia. The average age of NL managers is almost 57, and, hey, that's supposed to be the league where more brain power is required because there's no designated hitter. They don't call it the Senior Circuit for nothing.

Not that the American League managers are all spring chickens, either. The Central Division leader is Detroit, managed by Jim Leyland, who is 64. That means that by the end of the year, four of the six division-leading managers will be eligible for full social security benefits. And, guess what? The age of Japanese baseball managers averages out almost exactly the same as American, with the venerable Katsuya Nomora of the Eagles still going strong at 74. Ahh, so.

The coaches in the NBA are the second oldest group in professional sports. And, of course, another long-in-the-toother, Phil Jackson, led the Lakers to the championship this year, age 63.

Now, on the other hand, in the mean sports, it's the exact reverse: youth rules. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup behind a 38-year-old coach, Dan Bylsma, and the Pittsburgh Steelers' head whippersnapper Mike Tomlin, won the Super Bowl at only 36. In all of major league baseball, only one manager is in his thirties, while in the NFL, only two are barely in their sixties. The average NFL head coach is a full six years younger than his baseball counterpart. It's a weird dichotomy, isn't it?

Perhaps baseball managers are older because the sport has more of a hierarchy, with the minor leagues. You have to work your way up. Dave Trembley apprenticed as a minor league manager for 20 years before he got the Orioles job at 55. Also, baseball is the only sport where the managers dress just like their players. It hides their age. Everybody loves a man in a uniform. Even an old man.