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Saying Goodbye to the the Managerial "Old Breed?"

For me, it’s all coming together in a bad way. Months ago, Bobby Cox announced the 2010 season would be his last. A few days ago, the great Lou Brown passes away. And, today, Sweet Lou, says he’s hanging it up too at season’s end. Sure, the Tribe’s fictitious manager played by James Gammon never manned the dugout in a major league game, but he similarly represents a breed that Cox, Pinella and others can claim membership. It’s a breed of old-school lead men in very literal and figurative ways. And, damn it, it seems like they’re going away and it really pisses me off.

Cox. Manuel. Pinella. Leyland. To me, having never played in the big leagues, they are baseball. We love to pretend the good ‘ole days were all good, but they likely were just as seedy, greedy and greeny as the steriod-eras and juiced ball days we cast our eyes so scornfully upon. So perhaps, glorifying skippers who chain smoke in the dugout, curse out their players and kick up dust with reckless abandon is not the most “proper” thing to do. Screw proper.

Here come the cliches folks, and I’m going to pile them on. These are baseball guys who honor the way the game was meant to be played and don’t let their players sleep on the job. They get after umpires and will bench, undress and/or tear to shreds players who fail to run out a pop up. These same surly commanders will let boys be boys from time and maybe even allow some fistacuffs to fly in the dugout knowing that sometimes it ain’t the worst thing in the world. You can almost picture them in their office post-game with a six-pack on yellow-bellies or something similar. And you know what? I like all of it.

So, here’s a quick tribute to a few of the men still carrying the torch. You know the archetype. Generally surly. Seemingly weathered. Never scared to get tossed at a moment’s notice. Respected and feared. Wise and wicked. Crafty and crusty. Old-school in every way, including, well, just downright old.

Charlie Manuel: Call him Aka-Oni, Uncle Charlie or whatever you wish, Manuel’s been in baseball for the past 40 years or so. Now 66 and having secured a championship, one wonders how long he’ll keep it at it. Regardless, despite disliking the Phillies with some fervor, I’ve always respected their Manuel. And, yes, you can read into that not-too-subtle line exactly how you’d like.

Jim Leyland: You just get the sense that “doesn’t take sh*t from anybody” was a line that could’ve been invented with Leyland in mind. The Marlboro man is about as straight-shooting as they come. He doesn’t stand for mediocre efforts as his 2006 rant on the underperforming Tigers revealed. I remembered thinking at the time that perhaps the game has passed Jimmy by…that maybe he couldn’t much relate to his players anymore and the yelling was a tactic whose life expectancy had expired and was falling on deaf ears. Wrong. At 65, he stills humming and the fact that the 2006 rant is no longer on the YouTube is a mockery. Unacceptable.

Lou Pinella: Sweet Lou’s been ticked off for the last few decades. He’s also been riling up teams, ripping umps and generally causing controversy. All told, he’s racked up a good deal of wins following a pretty decent big league career. Soon to turn 67, the game is going to miss Pinella as a character, although his schtick may have been growing a bit tired. Still, man could kick up infield dirt with the best of ’em.

Bobby Cox: Recently turned 69, Cox is the elder statesman of the crew and right up there with Joe Torre pushing the 70-mark. He’s been a fixture in the Braves dugout for a long, long, long time. His ejections are almost as impressive as his win totals. Maybe most telling is that no matter how hated his Braves were by Mets fans (including me), I never had one issue with Cox. In fact, I liked the guy and sure will miss having him around too.

So, is the old breed heading to pasture? Will Pinella’s announcement bring about more retirements in the not-too-distant future? Torre? Leyland? Who knows…but here’s to hoping the spirit of these skips never dies.

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