Trying to bet on Jack McKeon's mortality
The Florida Marlins. Man. What a June. They lost 19 of their first 20 games, including two in one day to the Philadelphia Phillies. In May, the Fish ranked 17th in the majors in runs scored. In June, at 30th place, they ranked dead last. They also dropped 11 spots in home run rankings, 12 in runs batted in, ten in walks, nine in strikeouts, nine in batting average, and 13 in slugging. No one on the team batted an average better than .272, except for Chris Volstad and Burke Badenhop, who are pitchers.
Oh, and their manager quit and was replaced by a guy who was getting senior citizen discounts in the early '80s.
Jack McKeon turns 81 in November. He has been managing sports teams since 1973, before any of the current Marlins were born. On most nights, he's older than the starting outfielders' ages combined. So that got us thinking: What are the odds the cigar-smoking octogenarian will even survive until the end of the season?
We called the sports bookie at Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon (if anyone would let us bet on someone dying, it would be "the wildest hotel and casino in Las Vegas," right?) The bookie was not particularly happy with our inquiry. "No, sir... no one's going to take a wager on that, no," he said.
Then we rang Andrew, an oddsmaker at a prominent Las Vegas firm, who originally said he couldn't help because "somebody [in the front office] has independent control over what happens."
No, Andrew, not will he survive with the team. It's will he survive with a heartbeat.
It was at that point Andrew asked us not to use the name of his company. "I couldn't, to be honest with you... I couldn't even start to... " he said. "I guess we could do something."
Though he couldn't actually run the numbers for us, he said everything is based on mathematical models. "The numbers kind of depict themselves," he said, adding that, were he inclined to calculate such odds, he'd look at factors that affect life expectancy and extrapolate from there.
"Maybe he's outlived his life expectancy as it is," Andrew suggested. "Maybe baseball keeps his ticker going... I think [college football coach] Joe Paterno passes away the second he leaves Penn State."
We were getting closer — a Vegas oddsmaker seemed to think McKeon's old, crusty heart could hold out until October, but he didn't offer anything conclusive. To finally settle the issue, we called Coconut Grove psychic Sandra Richardson, who said she was reluctant to deal with issues of life and death, but then enthusiastically dealt with issues of life and death.
"That's an interesting question," she said. The line went quiet. "Hmm. McKeon, right? And you said he's 80? Hmm. Give me just a moment." She muttered something about verification. I heard cards being dealt.
"In all honesty, in just looking at the cards and stuff, I'm not seeing the death energies, quote-unquote," she said. "I just see a lot of frustrations and stuff."
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