I was saddened to learn that former Phillies manager Danny Ozark died today at his home in Vero Beach, Florida. He was 85.
Danny Ozark managed the Phillies from 1973-1979. The Phils went from doormat of the National League to three straight National League Eastern Division titles under him in 1976, 1977, and 1978, including two consecutive 101-win seasons. However, Ozark could never get over the hump and get to the World Series, and he was fired after the 1979 season when the Phils lost the Eastern Division to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He survived a clubhouse coup by Steve Carlton in 1973, but couldn't survive three consecutive losses in the National League playoffs.
Danny always looked like a bloodhound to me. He sort of shambled along, always looked sad, and had big ears. He constantly made malapropisms that channeled Yogi Berra. He had the reputation of being a solid baseball man but not the smartest guy in the world, but he did well with the Phightins. He had a career managerial record of 594-510.
First, Harry the K. Now, the Wizard of Oze. It's been a bad month for my childhood memories of the Phillies.
Rest in peace, Danny. And thanks for helping the Phillies emerge from their years in the wilderness.
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com.