By Freddy Berowski
Noted baseball author and historian Harold Seymour penned the book “The Golden Age of Baseball” about early 20th century baseball – a time when Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson were the stars of the game. Some would say that what we are experiencing now is the golden age of the baseball manager.
Entering the 2010 season, three of baseball’s five all-time winningest managers are active. At 2,552 wins, Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa sits about three seasons away from moving into second-place all-time, ahead of New York Giants Hall of Fame manager John McGraw. Thirteen times LaRussa has piloted clubs to a playoff birth, including two World Championships.
Bobby Cox of the Braves and Joe Torre of the Dodgers, with a combined five World Series championships and 29 postseason appearances, come in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, on the all-time manager win list. With the exception of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Cox lead Atlanta to a first-place finish every season from 1991 to 2005, a mark that is unparalleled in Major League Baseball history.
Meanwhile, for 14 seasons beginning in 1996, Torre has lead either the Yankees or the Dodgers to the postseason with either a first-place finish or a wild-card berth.
To find the last time that three of baseball’s top five winningest managers were active in a season, we have to go back 60 years. The 1950 season was the last for Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy, and also marked the beginning of Bucky Harris’ third stint with the Washington Senators.
At 3,731 wins, no one will be closing in on Mack’s spot at No. 1 on the list anytime soon. But if history holds true it is only a matter of time before Cooperstown comes calling for LaRussa, Cox and Torre. Other than those three active skippers, the rest of the top 11 all-time winningest managers are already enshrined in Cooperstown.
Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.