Bobby Bragan Sets Age Record as Manager

Former Brooklyn Dodger catcher Bobby Bragan hinted weeks before his history-making appearance as manager of the Fort Worth Cats August 16 that he might get tossed out of the game. And, to no one's great surprise, he was tossed right on schedule.

But by that time the 87-year-old former big league manager had officially "managed" the Cats for one game to become the oldest professional manager in history, surpassing by eight days Hall of Famer Connie Mack, who managed Pittsburgh 1894-96 and the Philadelphia Athletics 1901-1950. He won five World Series and nine pennants.

Bragan was ejected in the third inning of Fort Worth's Central League game against Coastal Bend when he asked the plate umpire why his shortstop had been kicked out. And while he was there, he pointed out the umpire wasn't doing much of a job.

Historically, that usually gets you the rest of the night off, as it did for Bragan.

But by then the game was official and Bragan was under the stands at the autograph table along with former Dodger Maury Wills, his first base coach for the evening and one of his star pupils.

Wills was a good-fielding, poor hitting shortstop at the Dodgers AAA club in Spokane when the manager of the club, Bobby Bragan, taught him to switch hit.

Just like the movies, a star was born.

Wills joined the Dodgers in the latter part of the 1959 season and sparked them to an improbable National League pennant and a World Series win over the Chicago White Sox.

Fourteen years in the major leagues, a .281 average, 586 steals and an induction into the Hall of Fame later, Wills was on hand to help his old skipper set a new record.

At the pregame meeting at home plate, Bragan showed up with a seeing-eye dog, setting the stage for the evening.

"I told him, 'I want you to call them right. Don't call them like you see them,' " said Bragan, who estimated that he was ejected about six games a year during 12 seasons of managing, a conservative total according to baseball historians.

Bragan spent seven seasons as a major league manager for Pittsburgh (1956-57), Cleveland (1958) and both the Milwaukee (1963-65) and Atlanta (1966) Braves. He managed Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn, and compiled a record of 443-478.