FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Wayne Terwilliger doesn’t think about being 80 unless he looks closely in a mirror, and there aren’t any of those on the baseball field or in the dugout.

He certainly doesn’t act his age.

Nearly four hours before the independent Fort Worth Cats play, their wiry manager is out in the near-100 degree afternoon heat. While some of his players – most of them in their 20s – lazily take turns hitting, Terwilliger roams the outfield alone shagging balls.

“I never expected to be 80, I guess. I feel really good,” he said. “When somebody’s 80 years old, I can see the guy who’s got a cane, bent over.”

Not Terwilliger, still going strong in his 57th professional season as a player, coach and manager.

And he’s not even thinking about retirement after joining Hall of Famer Connie Mack as the only octogenarian managers in baseball history.

On some days, he still throws batting practice with an effective sling of his right arm. He’s always picking up his fungo bat and hitting sharp grounders to the infielders.

“No one even thinks of him as an old guy until somebody says something,” said Bryon Smith, in his third season as a Cats infielder. “He has so much energy, has so much to give and cares so much. He’s excited about being at the field and makes us young kids excited to be here.”

The highlights of Terwilliger’s nine seasons as a major league player were mostly the people he played with or against. He was Jackie Robinson’s backup with the Brooklyn Dodgers and was on the opposing bench for Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning home run in 1951, the “Shot Heard Round The World.”

Twig played 666 games for five teams and hit .240 with 22 homers, one of his most memorable coming off Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. He also had a game-winning single off Satchel Paige before he started coaching in 1961, the year after playing his last game.

Now he’s in prestigious company with Mack, who managed 57 seasons, the last 50 with the Philadelphia Athletics. Mack won five World Series and nine pennants before his last game in 1950 at age 87.

“I don’t know what to say about that,” Terwilliger said. “They shouldn’t really compare me to Connie Mack.”

Fort Worth is the 16th team Twig has coached, his 12th minor league managerial job. The Cats won the first-half championship in the Central League, and Terwilliger will coach the league’s All-Star team against the Can-Am League All-Stars this month.

Twig does have two World Series rings from his time as first-base coach for the Minnesota Twins (1986-94), and he was on Ted Williams’ staffs with the Washington Senators (1969-71) and Texas Rangers (1972). He is the only person to wear the uniforms of the Senators and the two teams they spawned – the Rangers and Twins.

Of the 30 current major league managers, 22 weren’t even born when Terwilliger began his pro career as a player for the Des Moines Cubs in 1948. Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon is 4 years younger than Twig.

“It’s like he’s going to stay young his whole life. I can’t imagine him getting old,” said Los Angeles hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, who was on the Rangers staff with Twig in 1993 and 1994.

“He’s a poster boy for the geriatric,” said Rick Stelmaszek, the Twins bullpen coach since 1981. “He’s supposed to be retired, and he’s doing things he’s not supposed to do. … He’s doing everything he likes to do, and I still can’t beat him in gin.”

While Terwilliger isn’t planning his departure from the game, Fort Worth almost certainly will be his last stop.

Terwilliger came to Fort Worth in 2003 after seven seasons as an assistant coach for the independent St. Paul Saints, a team he played for in 1952. Former Saints president Marty Scott needed a manager for the new Cats, a revival of the team that a half-century earlier was a farm club for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Central League is among the lowest rungs of pro baseball, and the Cats face 12-hour bus rides to places such as Pensacola, Fla.

But for Twig, it’s still baseball. And his wife, Lin, 17 years younger, has returned to her hometown. The couple met when Twig coached with the Rangers in 1972.

“The thing that will slow Twig down is the bus rides. The game won’t, the strategy won’t,” Cats general manager Monty Clegg said. “From a retirement standpoint, it’s kind of his call. He’s the one that’s going to have to tell us. We’re not going to kick him out the door.”

Before his baseball career, Terwilliger served 2 years during World War II, mostly in the South Pacific in places such as Saipan and Iwo Jima.

He returned home to Michigan after the war, played at Western Michigan University and then played semipro ball before being signed by the Cubs. He has since been out of baseball only one year, when he ran his father’s old bar near the WMU campus in 1974.

“I’m prouder of being in the Marine Corps and serving in (World War II) than anything I ever did in baseball, or anything that ever happened to me in baseball,” he said.

In addition to acrylic painting and taking Spanish classes, Twig spends time away from the ballpark finishing up his autobiography. The man who majored in English in college got the idea for the book when people in St. Paul told him how much they enjoyed hearing his stories.

While there are plenty of stories about his time with Ted Williams and many of his favorite memories from playing the game, the book isn’t just about baseball.

“It’s part war, part baseball, and some publishers have turned it down saying we don’t want to do war and baseball,” he said. “It’s more or less my life, and war was a big part of my life.”

Baseball’s just been the longest, and most fun, part.


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