At 83, Vin Scully is still the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. At 80, Jack McKeon is managing the Florida Marlins. My MASN colleague Johnny Holliday is eligible to retire, but chooses to keep doing what he loves. Same with my very first radio idol, boss jock Johnny Dark, who still does a daily show for WTTR-AM In Westminster, Md.
I mention all this because I'm still hearing from fans who insinuate that Davey Johnson, at 68, is too old to manage a big league ballclub.
Inasmuch as Johnson last managed in the majors was 11 years ago, with the 2000 Dodgers, it's not unusual for some fans to speculate that maybe the game moved on without him. Some fans have brought up the unsuccessful return of Bud Wilkinson to coaching, when he took over the NFL Cardinals in 1978 after 15 years away from the sidelines. Wilkinson went 8-20 over two seasons before walking away, but in all fairness didn't have very good players.
There are no absolutes when it comes to age. I know a lot of 40-year-olds who seem absolutely clueless about the simplest things, and several 80-year-olds who are sharp as a tack - McKeon is one of them - along with my buddy Lou Sleater, who pitched in the big leagues 1950-58 and still remembers pretty much every pitch he ever threw, as well as clubhouse conversations.
Satchel Paige used to say age was just mind over matter: "If you don't mind, it don't matter." I think he was right. Those folks who have chosen to keep their minds active regardless of age will - in most cases, barring illness - keep their wits about them for much of their time on the planet. I'm fortunate in that I've had many relatives live rather productive lives well in to their 90s. My great Aunt Lona in Charleston, W.Va., was born in the 19th century and was still growing vegetables in her garden and crocheting tablecloths in the 21st century. When my grandmother on my mom's side turned 93, she revealed that she was really 94, but didn't think it was really a big deal.
Johnson will manage the Nationals as long as he's finds it a compelling thing to do. His age will have nothing to do with whether he stays through 2012 or opts to return to an advisory role - but I think he's already decided he's in for the long haul.
The old expression "he's forgotten more about it than you'll ever know" doesn't really apply here, because there's no sign he's really forgotten anything.