Former Royals manager McKeon recovering after heart surgery in North Carolina

Former Royals manager Jack McKeon was an All-Star coach in 1974.
Former Royals manager Jack McKeon was an All-Star coach in 1974.

Former Royals manager Jack McKeon underwent successful double-bypass heart surgery this week at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina.

McKeon, 82, was admitted to the medical facility last week after doctors discovered a blockage that needed immediate care, according to a story published on the website of the News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, N.C.

“I’m fine,” McKeon told the newspaper in a story posted Thursday morning. “I’m getting out of here tomorrow.”

The Palm Beach Post reported that McKeon first felt tightness in his chest about two weeks ago while on a scouting trip. The surgery was performed on Monday.

The Royals’ manager from 1973 to 1975, when he was succeeded by Whitey Herzog, McKeon enjoyed his best season with KC in his first year at then-Royals Stadium. The club went 88-74 that year, finishing second in the American League West to eventual World Series champion Oakland. McKeon remains one of just six of 16 Royals managers to finish his stint above .500 (.512).

McKeon would later manage the Oakland A’s (1977-78), San Diego Padres (1988-90), Cincinnati Reds (1997-2000) and, most famously, the Florida Marlins (2003-05, 2011), with whom he won the World Series in 2003. From 1981-90, he served as general manager of the Padres.

Another of McKeon’s crowning moments as a manager came after the 2003 season, when he was named the National League’s manager of the year. He won the same award in 1999 while with the Reds.

When he briefly returned to the Marlins’ dugout in 2011, still chomping his trademark cigar, McKeon became the oldest manager in baseball since Connie Mack, who managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years before retiring after the 1950 season at age 87. McKeon’s career managerial record, presumably now complete, stands at 1,051-990 (.515).

Today, McKeon serves as a special assistant in the Marlins organization and is a regular at games played by the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Florida’s Class A affiliate. The Grasshoppers’ home field of NewBridge Bank Park is a short drive away from his home in Elon, N.C.

McKeon hopes to return to the ballpark soon, but doctors have told him he’ll have to quit smoking stogeys.

He isn’t so sure about that.

“That’s what they say,” McKeon said. “We’ll see.”