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Furman Bisher: When retirement is really retiring

Furman Bisher

Furman Bisher

Well, guess you heard, Bobby Cox is retiring. That's what I heard. Then I heard a report from spring training. Bobby's there, as usual, and he was reporting on Tommy Hanson's condition. You know, the pitcher who crashed his car arriving at camp.

That's Bobby Cox reporting on Hanson's condition. Bobby's down there at the Disney World camp and he was giving Hanson a thumb's up. Usually, you know, you get such news as that from the manager, which would be incumbent Fredi Gonzalez, or at least the pitching coach, which would be Roger McDowell.

Oh, I guess you could say Cox is functioning in an ex-officio capacity. You know, it's just tough sometimes for some guys to let go. You'd have thought Bobby had had his run, leaving behind those 14 plaques of success, those hanging over the left field stands. It would have been a lot more impressive if more than one represented a World Series. One out of 14 will usually get you sent back to the bushes.

I sometimes wonder if Gonzalez may not feel like a manager-in-waiting, especially with Cox making reports on pitchers' progress and guys with healing wounds. It might be that Gonzalez lost some of his clout when the Braves blew a tire in September. Fret not, Freddie, the same had happened to Cox as he managed his way out the previous September.

Eight times Manager of the Year (by The Sporting News) and only one World Series flag. Ouch! That takes the zing out of it. About the most retiring retiree in my time has been Sandy Koufax's. He hasn't thrown an official pitch since. Stayed away from the tabloids, spanned the land, from California to Maine and even divorce couldn't make the headlines, though he was married to the daughter of a movie star.

He has softened as time rolled by, even putting in appearances at spring training. But getting down to basics, when Sandy retired, it was an absolute retirement.

When the Yankees fired Casey Stengel, it was a shock to the old man. Then came the Mets and they softened the blow -- though you can hardly say that managing one of the worst teams that ever took the field represents honorable retirement. But, at least, Casey never kept showing up in the spring, making his survey of the players and rendering daily opinion.

Connie Mack had a vested interest. He still owned the team, as bad as the A's were. But, to each retiree his own -- and that includes me.

(But make that "semi-.")

Furman Bisher is a dean of American sports writing. He writes occasional columns for the Citizen.