- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2011

MIAMI (AP) - Jack McKeon assumed the rarest of roles Monday: 80-year-old caretaker.

Nearly six years after McKeon retired as the Florida Marlins‘ manager, he returned to his old job on an interim basis and will lead the team for the rest of the season. The Marlins are expected to hire another manager after this season before they move into their new ballpark next April.

McKeon, who guided Florida to the 2003 World Series championship, becomes the second-oldest manager in major league history. Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics in a suit, tie and straw hat until 1950, when he was 87.

McKeon will wear a uniform with No. 25.

“I’ve managed since I was 14 years old,” McKeon jokingly said. “I’ll probably manage until I’m 95. … I look at it this way: Why should experience get penalized? Eighty doesn’t mean a thing. I’m not 80. My birth certificate says that, but I’m not 80.”

McKeon succeeds manager Edwin Rodriguez, who resigned before Sunday’s loss at Tampa Bay. Last-place Florida took a 10-game losing streak into Monday night’s matchup at home against the Los Angeles Angels.

McKeon had been working part time as a special assistant to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. He was home in North Carolina watching his granddaughter’s softball game Sunday when the call came with an offer to return to the dugout.

Team president David Samson said McKeon’s age was not a consideration.

“His work ethic is five times better than half the 40-year-olds I know,” Samson said. “At 80 he’s sharper frankly than half the people we have working for us.”

His hiring came with the Marlins trying to end a three-week free-fall that has seen them go 1-18 in June, and they’re hoping history will repeat. McKeon took over a floundering team in May 2003 and led it to an improbable championship that fall.

“It’s good to have a friend in a time of need,” president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. “Jack can get the attention of a team very quickly and get them moving in the right direction.”

Florida had three successive winning seasons under McKeon before he retired as manager at age 74 in 2005. There had been a buzz for several years that he wanted to return to the dugout.

“I had a little siesta,” McKeon said. “After I laid out for a year and a half or two years, I started to miss it.”

This is the second consecutive year Florida has changed managers in June. Last season Fredi Gonzalez was fired and replaced by Rodriguez on June 23.

McKeon also came out of retirement at 72 to take over the Marlins 38 games into the 2003 season. That hiring made him the oldest manager to take over a big league team, and he quickly revived a franchise that had managed just one winning record in its 10-year history.

McKeon led Florida to a World Series victory over the Yankees, and he received the NL manager of the year award for the second time.

Now he’ll try to orchestrate a similar turnaround. The Marlins were only two games behind NL East leader Philadelphia when the month began, but they’ve tumbled to last place and began the week at 32-40.

McKeon was born Nov. 23, 1930, in South Amboy, N.J. He began his professional baseball career as a minor league catcher in 1949 and managed 2,269 games in the minors.

He took his first managerial job at Kansas City in 1973 and has also managed at Oakland, San Diego and Cincinnati, leading the Reds to a wild card berth in 1999 and winning manager of the year. He returns to the dugout with a career record of 1,011-940.

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