Introducing… Danny Murtaugh

At first glance, you’d think Danny was on bad terms with management – like Billy Martin in New York – given his sporadic managerial career.  Murtaugh would manage some seasons with Pittsburgh then he would be replaced.  After a couple years, Danny would find his way back to the manager’s office only to be replaced a year or two later.  The fact of the matter is that Danny Murtaugh rarely managed in good health.  He was forced to step down as manager to lessen his level of stress.

A scrappy infielder during his playing days, Murtaugh began his Major League managerial career with the Pirates – the only team he would ever pilot at the highest level – in the year 1957.  Taking over for Bobby Bragan, Danny finished with a .510 winning percentage that year, inheriting a team with a .350 percentage.  A poor team for a number of years, the Pirates turned things around in 1958 when Danny led them to a second place finish.  He trimmed the Pirates staff ERA by 32 points. 

The worm made its full turn in 1960 when Danny led the Pirates to the World Series.  Managing a team led by the brilliant double-play combo of Dick Groat and Bill Mazeroski, Murtaugh led his charges to a 95-59 record and topped the season off with a whopper of a World Series.  Despite being outscored by a considerable margin (when the Pirates lost, they lost big) Danny was able to coax a title out of his men.  Bill Mazeroksi’s walk-off homerun in Game 7 is one of baseball’s classic moments.

After winning a World Series title, the Pirates struggled in ’61 despite having the best team batting average in the NL.  The Pirates rose in the standings in 1962, finishing fourth and leading the senior circuit with a staff ERA of 3.38.  Then came a last place finish in ’63 and another losing season in ’64.  Danny’s poor health forced him to the side. 

Murtaugh took a less stressful job in the scouting department but when Harry Walker was canned in 1967 Danny was asked to step back in the pilot’s seat.  Danny finished out the season but went to the front office in 1968. 

Like all scrappy ex-ballplayers, sitting in an office while boys are running about on the diamond didn’t suit Danny and he went back into the dugout in 1970.  In his third first season with the Pirates, Danny won the NL East flag but fell to the Reds in the NLCS.  He got his revenge in 1971, capturing the NL pennant and squaring off with the Baltimore Orioles in the Fall Classic.  The Orioles staff ERA was 84 points lower than the Pirates, but Danny’s deft managing skills allowed the team to take the title despite being outperformed on the mound – much like he did when his club was outslugged in 1960.

After capturing the world title, Danny was forced to step down as skipper for health issues again and was replaced by his former center fielder during the 1960s, Bill Virdon.  But ill health or not, Danny burned to get back in the saddle and took over the team late in 1973.  The Pirates finished third that year and then posted back-to-back NL East flags in 1974 and ’75.  In 1974, Danny managed the NL’s best hitting team (.274) but in each year, 1974 and ’75, his squad fell in the NLCS.

He managed one final season in 1976, leading the Pirates to a second place finish when his health was too poor for him to continue.  He stepped down, wanting to spend more time with his family, but died that December.

Danny Murtaugh managed five Pirates teams that eclipsed 90 wins during a season, won five flags, two pennants and two World Series titles.

RECORD: W 1,115/L 950

1 comment
  1. brettkiser said:

    A scrappy little infielder during his playing days, Murtaugh made his mark as a skipper with the Pirates during the 1960s and 1970s. The Bucs were a poor team until Danny steered them to a World Series title in 1960. Illness kept him out of the dugout often, but he was able to lead the Pirates to a World Series title again in 1971. A well-respected skipper, Danny’s 1,115 career wins is a nice total. His HOF chances are average.

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