Major League Managers with 27 World Series Titles Connected to Puerto Rico’s Winter League (Part VIII)

Nineteen Major League managers who once played or managed in the Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) or barnstormed in Puerto Rico, led their big league teams to a combined 27 World Series crowns,  from José Méndez, who led the 1924 Kansas City Monarchs to the first Negro World Series (aka 1924 Colored World Series) title, to Bruce Bochy, who managed the San Francisco Giants to 2010, 2012, and 2014 titles, plus the 2023 Texas Rangers to their first World Series title. Part VII covered Davey Johnson (1986 New York Mets). Part VIII transitions to Jack McKeon (2003 Florida Marlins), who managed the Arecibo Wolves and Santurce Crabbers in the PRWL during the 1970s.

McKeon, now 93 years old, was born in South Amboy, New Jersey, on November 23, 1930. He is a lifelong devout Catholic. He graduated from St. Mary’s High School, in South Amboy, class of 1948. McKeon was a catcher and a high school teammate of twins Eddie and Johnny O’Brien. All three played for the 1948 South Amboy All-Stars, New Jersey State Champions, and played five contests in that summer’s All-American Amateur Baseball Association tournament in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. New Orleans Crusaders won that 1948 event.

From 1949-1954, McKeon played in the minors—Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He transitioned, at age 24, to managing the 1955 Fayetteville Highlanders, a Baltimore Orioles affiliate. From 1956-1964, 1968-1972, 1976, and 1979, he managed teams in the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals (KCR), Atlanta Braves, and Montreal Expos organizations. In-between, 1965-67, he scouted for Minnesota. McKeon eventually became the only professional baseball manager to earn over 1,000 minor league AND 1,000 Major League wins. He helped Jim Kaat’s development, 1958 Missoula Timberjacks (245 K, 2.99 ERA). In 1959 he managed Cuban Zoilo Versalles with 1959 Fox Cities. John “Buck” Martinez, who caught for the 1970-71 Santurce Crabbers in the PRWL, was his 1971 Omaha catcher. He managed against Syracuse’s Bobby Cox in 1976 when the Syracuse Chiefs played McKeon’s Richmond Braves. Jim Beauchamp, skipper, 1976 Memphis Blues, recalled that the 5’8” McKeon was “colorful and dedicated to his craft.” Jim Leyland, 1979 Evansville Triplets manager, managed against McKeon in the International League. Table I includes his minor-league managing record.

Table I: Jack McKeon’s Minor League Managing Record

1955Fayetteville HighlandersCarolinaBBaltimore34-22.607
1956Missoula TimberjacksPioneerC 61-71.462
1957Missoula TimberjacksPioneerCWashington62-64.492
1958Missoula TimberjacksPioneerCWashington70-59.543
1959Fox Cities FoxesThree-IBWashington59-67.468
1960Wilson TobsCarolinaBWashington73-65.529
1961Wilson TobsCarolinaBMinnesota83-59.585
1962Vancouver MountiesPCLAAAMinnesota72-79.477
1963Dallas Ft. Worth RangersPCLAAMinnesota79-79.500
1964Atlanta CrackersInternationalAAAMinnesota55-93.372
1968High Pt. Thomasville Hi-TomsCarolinaACo-op69-71.493
1969Omaha Royals (won pennant)American AssociationAAAKCR85-55.607
1970Omaha Royals (won pennant)American AssociationAAAKCR73-65.529
1971Omaha RoyalsAmerican AssociationAAAKCR69-70.496
1972Omaha RoyalsAmerican AssociationAAAKCR71-69.507
1976Richmond BravesInternationalAAAAtlanta69-71.493
1979Denver BearsAmerican AssociationAAAMontreal62-73.459
Totals    1184-1178.501
1970Post-Season Finals vs. DenverAmerican AssociationAAAKCR4-1.800

Sources: Baseball Reference, Jack McKeon’s SABR Bio, Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Edited by

Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, Published by Baseball America, 2007.

McKeon’s Connection to the PRWL

McKeon was a key reason why the KCR sent many prospects to Arecibo, Puerto Rico, early-to-mid 1970s, from Tom Poquette to Dennis Leonard, Gary Lance, Ken Wright, Buck Martínez, and others. Benny Ayala came into his own (1973-74) and Candy Maldonado—to be inducted in the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, on December 16, 2023—played regularly for the 1978-79 Arecibo Wolves. “That was a special moment for me,” noted Maldonado. “I will never forget Jack McKeon penciling my name in the [October 1978] line-up, in left field.” McKeon endeared himself to the PRWL by being competitive and giving young native players a chance to prove themselves. McKeon managed Arecibo after his 1973 AL season as the KCR skipper, a plus in the eyes of PRWL fans.

McKeon: “I had a good rapport with fans and the Puerto Rican players. They remember me as a manager who always gave the kids—Candy Maldonado, Carlos Lezcano, Mario Ramírez—a chance to play. I tried to get these kids enough playing time to build up experience and not have to worry about imported players. It was time to begin infiltrating them, and build tradition and depth of Arecibo’s native players.” He also experienced heavy traffic, parades, and noise during the Island’s 1972 and 1976 elections.

Santurce, in 1975-76 and 1976-77, made the playoffs under McKeon. Paul Hartzell, star 1976-77 pitcher (8-2 W-L), viewed him as a solid manager who “seemed to have the right balance between playing native players and imports.” McKeon reciprocated on Hartzell: “Good sinker, good control, real competitor, fun to manage, hard worker.” Table II highlights Arecibo Wolves history, 1961-2010, their final PRWL season.

Table II: Arecibo Wolves Manager History, Wins-Losses (W-L), and Team Highlights, 1961-62 to 2009-10

SeasonsManagersW-LPCTHighlights-Arecibo players unless otherwise noted.
1961-62Luis R. Olmo42-39.519Won 4th place tie-breaker vs. San Juan. Phil Niekro won it. Tommie Aaron tied Santurce’s Orlando Cepeda with 53 RBIs.
1962-63Luis R. Olmo35-35.500Cookie Rojas: most league hits (95). John Herrnstein: most homers (14).
1963-64Tony Castaño31-39.443Tony Oliva (.365) won the batting title. Teammate Arturo López (.337) was fourth.
1964-65Tony Castaño38-32.543Miguel Cuéllar (12-4) tied Mayagüez’s Dennis McLain (12-4) for most league wins.
1965-66Cookie Rojas34-36.486Rojas: youngest Arecibo manager ever (age 26).
1966-67Larry Shepard34-36.486Walter “No Neck” Williams, .312 BA, second to Tony Pérez’s .333 BA, with Santurce.
1967-68Carlos M. Santiago28-41.406Sal Bando (.330): third-highest league BA. Degold Francis (14): most league homers.
1968-69Vic Power19-50.275Samuel Parrilla hit 10 HR. Lefty Paul Lindblad enjoyed pitching for the Wolves.
1969-70Lou Klimchock, Lucas Buyé (interim skipper)19-50.275 
1970-71Castaño, Jack McKeon32-37.464Angel Mangual’s seven triples led league.
1971-72McKeon, Steve Boros28-37.431Rich Coggins .309 BA fourth-best. Jim Hicks’s 11 homers tied San Juan’s Milt May for third behind Caguas’s Willie Montañez (15) and Mayagüez’s Charlie Manuel (14).
1972-73Boros, McKeon37-34.521Coggins (.352) won the batting title; his 15 SBs were second to teammate José “Pepe” Mangual. RHP Lynn McGlothen’s 10 wins tied Santurce’s LHP Terín Pizarro. McGlothen fanned a league-best 130.
1973-74McKeon, Boros35-36.493Benny Ayala (.340), fifth in BA; tied Caguas’s Jerry Morales with 14 homers and Caguas’s Jay Johnstone with 46 RBIs. Ken Wright’s 147 K’s led loop. Mark Littell’s 2.60 ERA was third-best. Wolves beat Santurce in a tie-breaker for fourth.
1974-75Jack Krol33-37.471Danny Walton’s 14 homers led the league; 43 RBIs were second to Johnstone’s 46. John Denny’s nine wins—second to Caguas’s Eduardo Figueroa (10).
1975-76Luis Isaac24-36.400Benny Ayala’s 14 homers and Tom Bruno’s 1.23 ERA led the league.
1976-77Nino Escalera, Tom Burgess16-43.271Iván de Jesús’s six triples led league; 20 SB were second to Caguas’s Tony Scott (25).
1977-78Jack McKeon36-24.600One game behind Caguas Criollos (37-23). Dennis Lamp’s nine wins led the league. Iván de Jesús’s 31 SB second to Mayagüez’s Ron LeFlore (34).
1978-79Jack McKeon27-33.450Candy Maldonado got his first start. Jim Breazeale (13 HR, 50 RBIs), was second to Mayagüez’s Jim Dwyer (15, 53).
1979-80Rene Lachemann28-32.467Samarito Vegas’s 42 RBIs and 43 runs led the league as did Mookie Wilson’s 28 steals.
1980-81José A. Pagán30-31.492Candy Maldonado’s 10 homers trailed Bayamón’s Héctor Cruz (11). Candy’s two HR, league All-Star Game, tied: Joshua Gibson-Santurce (1941-42), Hank Aaron-Caguas (1953-54), Roberto Clemente-Santurce (1954-55), and Ismael Oquendo-Santurce (1979-80).
1982-83Ron Clark28-32.467Won playoffs; 1983 Caribbean Series in Venezuela. Candy Maldonado and Orlando Mercado hit 10 HR. Onix Concepción’s .356 BA was third, ahead of Dickie Thon (.347) and Carmelo Martínez (.333); behind Brian Harper (.378) and Tony Gwynn (.368). All except for Onix were with Bayamón.
1983-84Bill Dancy30-30.500Candy Maldonado: .346 BA (third), 15 HR (second), and 46 RBIs (second).
1984-85Dave Duncan21-38.356Randy Niemann (54 K) led the league. Ed Wojna’s 2.17 ERA was second.
1985-86Ramón Avilés16-38.296 
1986-87Frank Funk, Sandy Alomar Sr.,20-33.377Candy Maldonado, eight HR, 35 RBIs. Jeff Montgomery, 2.78 ERA.
1987-88Avilés, Rick Sweet23-30.434Gary Thurman (35 runs); Francisco Meléndez (33 RBIs) led league.
1988-89Marv Foley, Alomar Sr.31-27.534Aristalco Tirado’s nine wins and 67 K led the league.
1989-90Ron Clark, Fernando González19-31.380Bernie Williams’s 13 SB led the league.
1990-91Orlando Gómez29-30.492Bernie Williams’s 38 runs and five triples led league.
1991-92Félix Millán23-27.460Alonzo Powell’s .339 BA topped all hitters.
1992-93Nick Leyva, Fernando González14-25.359 
1993-94Pat Kelly25-23.521Kevin Báez (.348) won the batting title. Phil Hiatt: 10 HR, 29 RBIs, led there. José Muñoz’s 14 SB led the league.
1994-95Dave Miley, Pat Kelly28-26.519Ray Durham’s five triples and 18 SBs led the league. Bernie Williams’s 37 RBIs tied for second.
1995-96Pat Kelly27-22.551League Champions and runner-up (4-2 W-L), 1996 Caribbean Series. José Alberro (13 saves) tied San Juan’s Paul Shuey. Allen McDill (2-1, 2.10 ERA), an excellent set-up man, fanned three Metro hitters for the “Isla” Team in the league All-Star Game. Ricky Otero’s 17 SB led the league.
1996-97Luis “Torito’ Meléndez25-26.490 
1997-98Miley, Félix Millán26-35.426 
1998-99Pat Kelly23-26.469 
2005-06Iván de Jesús Sr.17-23.425 
2006-07Pat Kelly22-22.500League runner-up.
2008-09Pat Kelly22-18.550League runner-up.
2009-10Pat Kelly25-14.641First place, regular season (first time).
Totals32 Managers1100-1314.456Two League championships; one Caribbean Series crown.

Sources: Pachy Rodríguez, long-time Arecibo official, and 2009-10 GM; Baseball Reference.

Success as Big League Manager and GM pre-Florida Marlins

McKeon managed the KCR to a 215-205, .512 PCT, 1973-1975, and was George Brett’s first big-league skipper. (Jim Kaat, in 2022, was the most recent Cooperstown Inductee managed by McKeon.)

Orlando Cepeda played his final big season for the 1974 KCR, 25 years before his Cooperstown Induction. Charles O. Finley hired McKeon to manage the 1977 Oakland A’s before firing him, and then rehiring him during the 1978 season. McKeon was unhappy with Finley’s meddling for a franchise that had lost its best players to free agency. Throughout the 1980s, McKeon was the San Diego Padres GM. He accepted their managing job in 1988, and was 193-164, .541 PCT, in two-plus years managing the Friars. He brought Carmelo Martínez to the Padres from the Cubs, in one of his many trades. “Trader Jack” also dealt Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter to the Toronto Blue Jays. Alomar and Tony Gwynn were two more Cooperstown Inductees he managed with San Diego.

From 1997-2000, McKeon went 291-259, ,529 PCT, as the Cincinnati Reds skipper. He was voted 1999 National League (NL) Manager of the Year, for leading the Reds to a 96-67 mark, including a tie-breaker loss to the New York Mets for the Wild Card spot. Ken Griffey Jr. was acquired prior to the 2000 season, and hit 40 homers with 118 RBIs for McKeon. Benito Santiago, from Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, was McKeon’s 2000 catcher.

Per his SABR bio by Thomas J. Brown Jr., McKeon “Never lost his Roman Catholic faith. When he was playing or managing, he attended Mass daily. He credited his success to his faith in many ways. When he was fired by the Reds in 2000, he prayed to St. Therese of Lisieux.” McKeon said: “She’s the prodigy of miracles, and I needed a miracle. I don’t know God’s plan but I don’t think my career has been fulfilled. And then came the Marlins.”

Florida Marlins Upend Giants, Cubs, and New York Yankees

Jeff Torborg was fired in May 2003 by the Marlins. McKeon took the managing reins and led Florida to a 75-49 mark, to qualify as the NL Wild Card Team, and earned his second NL Manager of the Year Award. The Marlins topped San Francisco, three games to one, in the Division Series, before edging the Chicago Cubs, four games to three, in the NLCS. Then, the Marlins deprived Joe Torre of his fifth World Series title as Yankees skipper. McKeon put 20-year-old Venezuelan rookie Miguel Cabrera in his line-up on June 20, 2003, in left field. Cabrera rewarded McKeon with a two-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning versus Tampa Bay, a 3-1 Marlins win. Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez was a key element, behind the plate, for the 2003 World Champions. Mike Lowell, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, provided pop at the plate and solid defense at third base for Florida. Former Arecibo Wolves center fielder Bernie Williams had the best hitting figures in the 2003 Fall Classic, with the Yankees: .400/.429/.720 slash line, and 1.149 OPS. He hit two homers and drove in five.

McKeon, age 72, was the oldest skipper to manage a World Series Champion until this record was eclipsed by 73-year-old Dusty Baker, after the 2022 Houston Astros bested the Philadelphia Phillies in the Fall Classic. McKeon, age 80, became the oldest NL manager, ever, when he replaced Edwin Rodríguez, as Marlins skipper on June 20, 2011. (Edwin Rodríguez was Puerto Rico’s first big league manager.)

Keith Sargeant wrote a fascinating 2022 piece on McKeon in Table III summarizes McKeon’s AL, NL, and his post-season managing record.

Table III: Jack McKeon’s Major League Managing Record

1977Oakland A’sAmerican26-27.491
1978Oakland A’sAmerican45-78.366
1988San Diego PadresNational67-48.583
1989San Diego PadresNational89-73.549
1990San Diego PadresNational37-43.463
1997Cincinnati RedsNational33-30.524
1998Cincinnati RedsNational77-85.475
1999Cincinnati RedsNational96-67.589
2000Cincinnati RedsNational85-77.525
2003Florida MarlinsNational75-49.605
2004Florida MarlinsNational83-79.512
2005Florida MarlinsNational83-79.512
2011Florida MarlinsNational40-50.444
TotalsRegular Season 1051-990.515
2003NL Division SeriesNational3-1.750
2003NL ChampionshipNational4-3.571
2003World SeriesFL vs. NYY4-2.667
TotalsMLB Post-Season 11-6.647

Source: Baseball Reference.


With gratitude to Jim Beauchamp, Paul Hartzell, Jack McKeon, Candy Maldonado, and Pachy Rodríguez. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.

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