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Jack McKeon retiring, 'but still on call'

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- If Jack McKeon gets the chance one day in 2018 to pass Connie Mack as the oldest manager in Major League history, he's going to take it. But in the meantime the 80-year old skipper plans to enjoy retirement back home in North Carolina with his wife Carol and his dog Yogi.

Jack McKeon McKeon made his retirement announcement Monday before the start of the Marlins' final home series at Sun Life Stadium, a decision that doesn't surprise many considering the team has already begun the search for its next manager.

McKeon became the second-oldest manager in baseball history when he took over for Edwin Rodriguez, who abruptly resigned on June 19. Only Mack was older at 87 when he skippered the team he owned -- the Philadelphia Athletics -- in his last season of 1950.

"I hate it," McKeon said of retiring. "But I'll still be on call... Hopefully in 2017 or '18 I'll be back."

To pass Mack? "That would be a big motivation," McKeon said. "I'm No. 2 now. I hope the good lord gives me enough good health to last about seven or more eight years so I can do it again."

McKeon, who figures to remain as a consultant for the Marlins, took over a team that had lost 10 straight games under Rodriguez and fell from second place into the NL East basement at 32-40. The Marlins eventually got back to .500 on Aug. 2 in New York, but lost second baseman Omar Infante and shortstop Hanley Ramirez to injuries "and the season went downhill from there," McKeon said.

"It's been a great run," said McKeon, who has led the Marlins to a 39-48 mark heading into Monday's game. "I'm disappointed I couldn't work the magic we had in '03 here. But I think you guys understand the circumstances."

The Marlins, which will debut in a new stadium and under the name Miami Marlins in 2012, clinched last place in the division when they were swept by the Brewers over the weekend.

Monday, team owner Jeffrey Loria met with current third base coach Jose Espada for an interview. Former third base coach Bo Porter, now with the Nationals, was also reportedly supposed to be interviewed. The top target is believed to be White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, an assistant of McKeon's when the Marlins last won the World Series in 2003.

McKeon said he's "staying out" of the coaching search. But he believes whoever the Marlins make their fourth manager since 2010 will inherit a talented team.

"We're just a little bit away from putting it all together," McKeon said "Hopefully, we go out and get some players to add to what we do have and make it fun again going into the new stadium. I think they're going to be good. I think they're going to be much better than they were this year. No question about that. I just hope the fans will be patient and we'll get the right pieces together and have a re-run of 2003.

"I know back in 2003 we saw crowds of 10,000 to 20,000 to 30,000 to 60,000. You might say they were the 10th man in our success in 2003. They gave us a lot of energy."

The Marlins had winning records in each of McKeon's first three seasons at the helm.

After taking over during the 2003 campaign, he led the team to a 75-49 record, a wild card berth and the World Series title with a win over the Yankees. He was named the NL Manager of the Year that season, marking his second such honor as he also won the award in 1999 with Cincinnati.

The Marlins were 83-79 in each of McKeon's subsequent two years. He called it quits following the 2005 season.

After coming back as interim manager, he passed Fredi Gonzalez (276-279) for the most wins by a manager in club history. McKeon's overall record as Marlins' skipper: 280-255.

"I'll miss the camaraderie with you guys everyday and the great reception I received from the fans here," McKeon told reporters. "It's remarkable. They asked one of the coaches when I first got back here. He said 'The fans seem to like Jack. He's the only guy I ever saw get a standing ovation when he takes a pitcher out.' That's what made it so enjoyable -- the reception and respect they had for me."