Baseball's Top 8 All-Time Managers Who Never Played in the Majors
It goes without saying that becoming a professional baseball player is extremely difficult. If one does, in fact, make it to the majors, that big league experience will give you a leg up in other baseball-related professions after your playing career has concluded.
Among those careers? Major league manager. The vast majority of major league managers over the years have played Major League Baseball.
Some such as Joe Torre have won MVP awards. Others like former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa played in only 132 games over the course of a six-year career and finished with a .199 career batting average.
Both found plenty of success as managers, though.
There have been some successful major league managers who didn't cut their teeth in the majors first. It's rare, and it's far from the beaten path, but it can be done. There have been 108 managers who have roamed major league dugouts without ever having emerged from one as a ball player. Here are some of the finest.
No. 8: Terry Collins
Terry Collins: Career Record 533-328
Terry Collins is the current manager of the New York Mets. This is his eighth season as a manager at the major league level.
Collins spent 10 years bouncing around the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations in the 1970s but never made it to the majors. The career minor league player has made a career out of major league managing.
He's managed the Astros (1994-1996), Angels (1997-1999) and is now in his second season as the Mets' skipper.
Collins is known for being outspoken and fiery. For example, this season he's leading a Mets team coming off a 77-85 record in 2011. Adding to the team's numerous obstacles this season is the offseason departure of shortstop Jose Reyes. Back in spring training, Collins seemed less than alarmed about losing Reyes.
“You’re damn right. … You know what? Jose’s not here. The first time I hear someone say, ‘Oh, Jose would have caught that ball,’ we’ve got problems. … So our payroll’s down. How many guys here care what our payroll is? … I truly believe, in my heart, we’re going to surprise a lot of people. I’m not saying we’re going to win a championship. I’m just saying we’re going to be better than people think we’re going to be.” - MetsBlog 2/19/12
Collins' Mets are currently 12-9.
No. 7: John McNamara
John McNamara: Career Win-Loss Record 1160-1233
John McNamara was never a great manager, but among this limited group, he still stands out. He managed six different teams over 19 seasons as a big league manager.
His career is remembered for one specific season with one specific team and one very specific loss. John McNamara's 1986 Boston Red Sox won the American League East and then won the American League Pennant.
They were just one strike away from winning the 1986 World Series as well, but a collection of inexplicably bad luck and bad baseball in the bottom of the 10th inning would cause Boston to lose the game and then the World Series.
A mediocre minor league baseball career became a successful minor league managing career. That, of course, led to his eventual big league debut when he was named manager of the Oakland Athletics late in the 1969 season.
His only other postseason trip came in 1979 when his Cincinnati Reds won the National League West and lost to the eventual World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS.
McNamara's final stint as a manager was with the California Angels in 1996. The Angels struggled under McNamara that year, and he was fired early in the season. His interim replacement was Joe Maddon.
John McNamara is now retired.
No. 6: Buck Showalter
Buck Showalter: Career Win-Loss Record 998-957
Buck Showalter has never won a World Series. In fact, he's only made one playoff appearance. Showalter's 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks team won 100 games but lost in the playoffs. The heart of that team would eventually win the 2001 World Series, but Showalter was let go following a disappointing 2000 season.
Showalter has managed the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers. At each stop, he's found success but never the type of consistent tangible postseason success that managers are always judged on.
With the Yankees, he had the team playing great baseball in 1994. The team was in first place in the American League East on August 7, 1994, when the baseball season was halted by a work stoppage that would result in the entire 1994 postseason being canceled.
He still won Manager of The Year in 1994, and he repeated that accomplishment 10 years later when he led the Texas Rangers to an improvement of 18 games and an 89-win season.
Showalter was fired by the Rangers in 2006 and spent some time working in the Indians organization and as a baseball analyst on ESPN.
On July 29, 2010, he was named manager of the Baltimore Orioles.
No. 5: Joe Maddon
Joe Maddon: Career Win-Loss Record 535-509
The American League Pennant could potentially be a showdown between two teams led by managers who have never played in the majors before.
Jim Leyland has a great team in Detroit, and the Tampa Bay Rays are led by Joe Maddon.
Maddon was a completely unspectacular minor league catcher who never advanced beyond Single-A ball, but he loved the game and went right into minor league coaching and managing as a member of the Los Angeles Angels organization.
He worked his way up through the Angels' organization and even had two very brief stints as an interim manager at the big league level in 1996 and 1999.
Finally in 2004, he scored his first real major league managerial job with the Tampa Bay Rays.
He's been there ever since and has won Manager of the Year twice in 2008 and 2011. He's made the postseason three times including American League East titles in 2008 and 2010. In 2008, he led the Rays all the way to the World Series where they would lose to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Joe Maddon is only 58 years old. He has a long managerial career in front of him. It's too soon to talk Hall of Fame, but he's on the right path.
No. 4: Jack McKeon
Jack McKeon: Career Win Loss Record 1051-990
Jack McKeon, or "Trader Jack," was a career minor league player who segued into managing while still in the minors. He got his first major league managing job back in 1973 when he become the Royals' skipper.
McKeon hasn't just managed from the dugout. He was the general manager of the San Diego Padres from 1981-1990.
He's had plenty of success in the dugout, though. He won Manager of the Year in 1999 with the Reds and again in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. That Marlins team would go on to win the World Series against the New York Yankees.
McKeon had been a special assistant to Marlins owner Jeffery Loria until June 20, 2011. On that day, he was introduced as interim manager of the Marlins. At 80 years old, he became the second oldest man to be a major league manager behind Connie Mack.
McKeon stepped down and retired following the 2011 season.
No. 3: Jim Leyland
Jim Leyland: Career Win-Loss Record 1599-1595.
Had Jim Leyland only played baseball, he'd have about as good a chance of entering the baseball Hall of Fame as you or me. Having now managed for 21 years, he's got decent chance of someday being not just a guest, but a member of the Hall.
Leyland's resume features three Manager of the Year Awards in 1990, 1992 and 2006. Leyland has won four division titles, two pennants and one World Series.
What started as a failed career as a minor league catcher in the Tigers' organization in the 1960's when he amassed a .222 career average over seven forgetful seasons, has certainly come full circle.
Leyland now manages the Tigers. He's been there since 2006 when, in his first season, he took Detroit all the way to the World Series. Between his stops as weak hitting player and a successful manager in Detroit, he took the Pittsburgh Pirates to the National League playoffs three seasons in a row from 1990-1992.
Leyland left Pittsburgh and took over the Florida Marlins before the 1997 season. His stay in Florida was only two seasons, but his success was immediate. He led the Marlins to an unlikely World Series Title in 1997 over the Cleveland Indians.
His success and longevity in both the American and National Leagues have made him one of baseball's more revered managers. An accomplishment that is much more impressive considering he's never played a single major league game.
No. 2: Earl Weaver
Earl Weaver: Career Win-Loss Record 1480-1060
Earl Weaver spent 14 seasons in the minors and never once made it to the majors. His final season in the minors as a player was 1965. Three years later in 1968, Weaver finally made the majors when he took over in midseason as manger of the Baltimore Orioles.
His first full season was 1969, and the Orioles won the pennant. They won the World Series in 1970 and another pennant in 1971.
Earl Weaver's Orioles teams were very successful. In 17 seasons, he finished under .500 just once and won 100 or more games on five occasions.
Weaver was known to have an explosive temper. He was ejected from 97 games which places him among the all-time leaders in that category. Weaver was known to curse, kick dirt and flip his hat around backwards.
Weaver never won a Manager of the Year award, but the only two major league managers who never played major league baseball but did make it into the Hall of Fame are Earl Weaver and Joe McCarthy.
No. 1: Joe McCarthy
Joe McCarthy: Career Win-Loss Record 2125-1333
As of now there are only two managers who are enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame who never played at the major league level. Joe McCarthy is one of them.
If you wanted to make the argument he's the greatest manager of all time, not just among those who have never played but among all managers, there are plenty of people who wouldn't argue that point.
McCarthy spent 24 seasons as a big league skipper. Five with the Chicago Cubs (1926-1930), 16 with the New York Yankees (1931-1946) and three with the Boston Red Sox (1948-1950).
Through all of that, he went to nine World Series and won seven. Those seven were all as manager of the New York Yankees in the 1930s and into the 1940s. Players such as Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr all played under McCarthy.
McCarthy won three Manager of the Year awards including the first ever awarded in 1936. He also won it in 1938 and 1943. McCarthy's .615 winning percentage is the highest ever by a manager.
Joe McCarthy was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1957 and passed away at the age of 90 on January 13, 1978.