Friday, June 30, 2017

A tribute to longevity


I have worked for the same company for 27 years. I have been married to the same woman for more than 26 years. I have lived in the same house for 20 years. And I have held the same job position for 19 years.

I get longevity. It makes sense to me.

But in the very ADD world in which we now live in, I wonder if I'm all alone in this. In times of clarity, I know I am not. Because we celebrate the elongated careers of players like Bartolo Colon and Jamie Moyer. Most of us appreciate longevity even if we can't do longevity.

For me, the ultimate test of longevity is surviving as a major league manager. That is some tough sailing. Standards are much too high when it comes to managers. They really don't have that much control over anything, and they take way too much of the blame. It's not surprising that there is so much turnover in the position.

Yet, there are managers like Bruce Bochy, Dusty Baker and Mike Scioscia who have found a way to survive. They are our modern symbols of longevity. You can last as a player for as long as your ability holds out. But for a manager, all you can do is gain the trust of someone who controls whether you have a job. Your career hinges on that and the record your players produce. A player has home runs or strikeouts or whatever statistic for support. There is not one measure for a manager that says, "yes, he deserves to be working here another year."

The ultimate in managing longevity is Connie Mack. Fifty-three years and 3,731 wins. Tony La Russa and John McGraw are second with 33 years, a full 20 years behind Mack. After that it's Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Bucky Harris at 29.

Walter Alston, the Dodgers' manager from 1954-76, is 13th on the list at 23 years. His string of years impressed me very much when I was younger, although he will likely be surpassed by Bochy and maybe some of the other modern guys in the years to come. But Alston gets credit for his longevity with one single team, something that some managers like Torre, La Russa and Sparky Anderson can't say.

And to bring baseball cards into this, I believe Alston holds the record for the most consecutive appearances by a manager on his own Topps baseball card.

He appeared on 15 straight of his own Topps cards from 1960-74. Here they are:


 
 

(A quick observation: It took me scanning these cards to realize that the 1969 card of Alston is just the 1967 picture cropped closer).

Alston's managing career lined up nicely with the heyday of manager cards in Topps sets. From 1960-74, Topps featured the manager on his own card. Prior to that, it was very sporadic (Alston shows up in the 1956 set and that's it for that decade, as far as his own card). And after 1974, managers were relegated to a tiny mug shot with the team card. Except for a single year in 1978, Topps didn't return to manager cards until 1983, marking the beginning of a second "golden age" of manager cards, from 1983-92.

It's Topps' indecision on whether a manager card belongs in the flagship set or not that has kept Alston's record intact for all these years. Managers returned to Topps flagship sets again in 2001 and until 2009. But since then, managers have been restricted, for the most part, to Heritage or other "spin-off sets."

And as for other card companies, they simply couldn't last long enough to produce a manager to match Alston's mark. Donruss and Fleer showed managers right from the beginning and then they stopped. Upper Deck wanted almost nothing to do with current managers except for some brief periods in the mid-1990s.

And none of those companies lasted in the baseball card market as long as Topps has.

That's another reason why my allegiance is with Topps through every strange and annoying thing that it does. It knows longevity. Its cards have been around for 66 years.

I get longevity. I appreciate it. And many times, it's a goal unto itself. This blog is over eight years old and in that time I've seen probably more than a 100 blogs start and then disappear. I know I've said hello and goodbye to more than a 100 people at my place of employment.

I don't know if longevity is the smartest thing or the most laudable thing. I've just always been a nose-to-the-grindstone guy.

As the old saying goes, "keep on keepin on."

10 comments:

  1. I'm a longevity guy myself, 14 years and counting at my job and 9th year with the blog. Amen!

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  2. I'm with you...29 years same school/job....34 years same wife and same house. And I always liked Walt Alston. He was there when the Dodgers were my NL team. I think one reason I never warmed to Tommy Lasorda is that he was so unlike Alston.

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  3. Always like the Alston cards. I still need a few. I checked Tommy Lasorda and he only had 20 years as a manager? It seemed like 50.

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  4. The '62 Alston is such a tremendous piece of cardboard.

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  5. Out of curiosity, are these numbers the total number of years the people in question managed big league teams or does it also include their minor league (if they had any :P) managing experience as well?

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  6. Let me jump on the band wagon. I too am a longevity guy. Same job 15 years, before that, same job 22 years, same wife (are you ready?) 44 years. Great article. Really like the year to year line up of cards. Agree with Greg Zakwin, the 62 card is one of those great pieces of art. Close ups around the bats, dugouts and batting cages make good looking cards. Check out the 62 Rocky Colavito. Thanks again Night Owl for a great blog.

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  7. 2 minutes - actively tracking down a 60t alston for my collection
    9 years - back in the hobby
    14 years - in my current residence
    19 years - in the classroom
    42 years - in san jose

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  8. Funny thing, Alston actually lived (and died) in Oxford, Ohio ... a college town about 20 minutes west of where I currently live.

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  9. Love my 45+ years collecting / like my 33 years at same job / LOVE my 26 years with my gem mint wife / My 23 years same house is good but needs some improvements. Always liked the 73 and 74 mgr cards with the coaches.

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