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Wednesday, January 16
 
Seventy-six years young ... and oh, so full of life

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

Tom Kelly retired from managing at age 50 in October. Mark McGwire retired from his playing career at age 38 in November. And in the development that made me feel the oldest, I turned 40 over the weekend.

There is only one major leaguer under contract older than me, and that's Mike Morgan, which doesn't exactly make me feel any better.

But just when I felt all my remaining Saturdays would be spent puttering around the hardware store and discussing the weather, I talked with Wayne Terwilliger.

Anyone who can put "turned double plays with Jackie Robinson" on his resume and still is passionate about passing those lessons along to yet another generation has all the qualifications needed to manage any team.

Twig is one of my favorite people in baseball. He was in the initial assault wave on Iwo Jima and pitched batting practice to Ted Williams, which is more adventure than any man has any reason to expect. He got a base hit off Satchel Paige and homered off Whitey Ford. He was in the dugout when Bobby Thomson homered off Ralpha Branca and in the first-base coach's box when Gene Larkin singled home the winning run of the 1991 World Series. He has been a uniformed player or coach for longer than anyone else still in the game.

And now at age 76, he still isn't ready to call it quits. At age 76, he wants to make another career move. At age 76, he wants to manage the St. Paul Saints, the minor-league team with whom he's been the first-base coach since leaving the Twins in 1994.

Remember, we're talking about a man who got his first major-league hit when Connie Mack still was managing from the dugout in a suit and tie. A man who managed his first minor-league game when the College of Coaches was running the Cubs. A man who last managed a game when Dave Winfield was a San Diego Padre. And even though he will be 77 by the time the season rolls around, Twig still has the urge to write out a lineup card, kick dirt on umpires and ride a bus for 10 hours while players a half-century younger watch "Freddy Got Fingered."

I feel younger already.

Unfortunately, the odds are against Twig, even though he would already have the job had he only let the Saints know of his interest a little earlier.

When St. Paul manager Doug Sisson took a job in the Angels organization last month, the Saints initially talked with former Twin Gary Gaetti to see whether he might be interested in the job. After Gaetti turned them down to become the hitting coach in New Orleans, Twig began thinking things over and decided that he wanted to take a crack at managing again.

"When he turned it down, I got to thinking about the job and thought, 'Well, why not?' " said Twig, whose last managerial job was with Triple-A Tulsa in 1980, the year before Cal Ripken broke into the majors. "That's really all I could think. 'Why not?' It would be something to do at this stage of my life. It's not like you have to be a brain surgeon. I once asked Ralph Houk what it takes to be a good manager and he said, 'Good players.' "

Unfortunately, Saints president Marty Scott had already contacted two candidates and made offers contingent on whether they found jobs with major-league organizations. Both are still looking and Scott doesn't feel it would be right to offer the job to Twig until they make their decisions, one way or the other. He said that a couple weeks ago he thought it was 50-50 the two would hook on with someone else, but that it's getting pretty late in the game for that to happen now.

"I almost wish Twig would have said something and made those wishes known earlier," Scott said. "I thought he was content being a coach. I know his love for the game and his desire to be around it. I know it keeps him young. In fact, I think he's getting younger. He still does the same thing he did when he was the first-base coach for the Twins when they won their first World Series."

Scott said Twig's age doesn't concern him too much, either, because the Saints job would be easier than most minor-league managerial gigs. Twig wouldn't have to handle player personnel responsibilities during the day and would have plenty of help on the field. Twig said he gave some thought to whether he was too old for the job and decided he isn't.

"I thought about that and then I thought, 'What the hell,' " he said. "There won't be that much pressure. We'd either have the players or we wouldn't. And if things didn't go well, I'd suffer through it for a year and if I didn't like it, I'd give it up."

"The worse-case scenario," Scott said, "is he's out there at first base, hitting grounders before games and staying young."

I respect Scott's position on the job offer, but I really hope it works out for Twig. Anyone who can put "turned double plays with Jackie Robinson" on his resume and still is passionate about passing those lessons along to yet another generation has all the qualifications needed to manage any team.

And even if Twig doesn't get the job this season, Scott says he would be interested in hiring him should the job open up next year. After all, Sisson spent only one year in St. Paul and Terwilliger would only be 78 in 2003.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.





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