Manager of the Century?

White Sox exec and former agent Dennis Gilbert is doing a great thing raising money for former baseball scouts who have fallen on bad times. Scouts never made any money anyway and they wouldn't have to have much of a bad time to fall on bad times. One good medical bill would do it.

Gilbert and his charitable organization had a fundraiser recently in LA and highlighted Tommy Lasorda, who is always good to highlight at dinners.

His tongue remains golden, he can be humorous (sometimes when he's serious), he's survived more than half a century in a business where very few do, and at 78 he's entitled to an accolade to two.

But the award they gave him was "Manager of the Century." The first question is which century?

To be perfectly honest,Tommy Lasorda is NOT the manager of the 20th or any other century. Just think about it honestly. He wasn't even the best manager the Dodgers ever had. Anybody remember Walter Alston? Wilbert Robinson? Charley Dressen? Even Leo Durocher?

To be considered a great manager, you have to have a winning record. But winning records have a lot to do with cities, owners (and their bankrolls) and general managers who know how to put a team together.

A case could be made for manager Miller Huggins of the Huggins, owner Jacob Ruppert, GM Ed Barrow 1920s Yankees.

Or even manager Casey Stengel of the Stengel, GM George Weiss and owner Dan Topping Yankees of the 1950s and early 1960s.

How about old Connie Mack who was owner, GM and manager all rolled into one and who assembled the powerhouse Philadelphia A's of the early 1930s.

Had the great depression not forced him to sell off his players (he wrote the book for the Florida Marlins) in order to survive, there would have been Mack as manager of all time -- and then all the others.

It depends when a manager is "great". Sparky Anderson was great with the big Red Machine and then a bust with no machine at all in Detroit. Stengel went from bad -- with the Dodgers -- to great with the Yankees - and back to lousy with the Mets.

The smartest manager of all time, Gene Mauch, never had the opportunity to manage with a spending owner and a ruthless GM, so he's hardly ever listed as a great manager these days. In his day, Mauch, the former Dodgers farmhand, was never ever beaten to the punch on the field.

Al Lopez, another Dodgers catcher, won in two cities, the only guy who beat the Yankees in their heyday.

John McGraw of the old New York Giants set the standard in the early 20th century. Head to head with McGraw, 78 year old Tommy comes out a distant second.

That reminds us of an old Kentucky political story. During World War II, a draft deferred road builder figured with all the good men off fighting that it was his chance to be governor.

He went to Democratic kingmaker Emerson "Doc" Beauchamp and asked for his endorsement. "You're my second choice," the gravelly voiced Beachamp harumphed. "Who is first?," the erstwhile candidate meekly asked. "All the others," Beauchamp responded, ending the colloquoy.

And then there was the classic story of the repartee between millionaire songwriter Irving Berlin, nee Isidore Balin, and his aged mother.

Berlin's mother refused to leave her lower East Side, Hell's Kitchen, low income Jewish immigrant neighborhood.

Berlin dutifully visited his mother every Shabbas (the Sabbath). Once he showed up in white flannels, blue blazer adorned with brass buttons, ascot and jaunty sailing hat. "Nu, Isidore," his momma inquired (Nu is a great yiddish word meaning 'so,what's this.')

"I'm a captain," proud son Irving responded. (He had just bought a yacht.)

"Irving," his momma said. "Let me tell you. By me, you're a captain. By you, you're a captain. By captains, you aint no captain!"

So if Tommy Lasorda went home the other night, with his placque under his arm, and told his wife that he was the 'manager of the century,' he might have turned an eye skyward when he knelt down to say his goodnight prayers and winked apologetically to Miller Huggins, Connie Mack, John McGraw, Casey Stengel and Walter Alston looking down from the baseball heavens.