Friday, May 8, 2009

Danny Ozark RIP

The Philadelphia Phillies lost another one of the family with the passing of former manager Danny Ozark on May 7. Danny came to Philly in 1973 and finished last his first year. No surprise given the state of the team at that time. However, the winds of change were in the air as the team was starting to reap the benefits of the best farm system in baseball, which had been revamped in the mid 1960s by former owner Ruly Carpenter and the late GM Paul Owens.

Soon future homegrown stars such as Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, and Bob Boone found their way onto the Phillies roster. Shrewd trades added future Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Pete Rose, along with fleet center fielder Garry Maddox. Within a few short years, Danny found himself managing one of the best teams in baseball. He led the Phillies to three straight division titles beginning in 1976 and to two straight 100 win seasons in 1976 and 1977, but his failure to lead the team to the World Series led to his firing in 1979.

He was not the greatest strategist as a manager and his moves were often frustrating but Danny O was always liked by his players. I remember meeting he and his wife in Atlantic City in 1985 and they couldn't have been nicer. We spent several minutes talking baseball and I came away feeling bad that I had been one of his critics as a manager.

Like Yogi Berra, Danny was the master of the malaprop. One of his classics occurred in September one year when the team had just been eliminated from the division title race. When asked about team morale, Danny replied famously " morality at this time is not a factor." I am sure he's now hanging with Harry, Whitey, and Em discussing the 1977 playoff loss to the Dodgers.

A baseball lifer from a simpler and happier time. RIP

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