Posts Tagged ‘Danny Murtaugh’

Is Danny Murtaugh Headed for the Hall of Fame?

March 22, 2010

On his big day in baseball, Pittsburgh Manager Danny Murtaugh (L) happily yielded the spotlight to his 2nd baseman, Bill Mazeroski.

Former Pittsburgh Pirate ace reliever Kent Tekulve may have said it best for a lot of Pittsburgh Pirate family members when he offered these choice comments about his former manager, the late  Danny Murtaugh, for two seasons in 1973-74: “”What I know about Murtaugh is there were two things you could count on. He would give you an honest evaluation or an honest answer, and you were rewarded for what you did on the field,” Tekulve said. “It didn’t matter who you were or what you looked like, he would stay with you as long as you performed. You always knew where you stood.”

Honesty, integrity, straight-shooting forthrightness, and a predictable record of rewarding those who got the job done with playing time are all qualities that lace their way through the comments of former Pirate players on Murtaugh – and they are now being heard loud enough to finally lift Danny Murtaugh into serious consideration by the Veterans Committee for future election to the Baseball hall of Fame.

For younger readers, a brief sketch of Danny Murtaugh’s career is in order.

Danny Murtaugh began his nine season Minor League career (1937-41, 1946-47, 1952-53) at Cambridge and concluding at New Orleans. He played second base for two really good Houston Buff clubs in 1940-41, hitting .299 and .317 on his way to the majors and a nine season Major League career with the Phillies, Braves, and Pirates (1941-43, 1946-51).

Murtaugh’s career minor league batting average was .297 with 16 homers. His career major league BA was .234 with 8 HR. Danny was more a speed guy who sprayed hits. As a 1941 rookie, Murtaugh’s 18 stolen bases led the National League.

It was as a manager that Danny Murtaugh stole the hearts of Pittsburgh fans and made his strong case for Hall of Fame consideration. As the Pirate field boss for all or part of 15 seasons over three decades (1957-64, 1976, 1971-71, 1973-76), Danny Murtaugh led Pittsburgh to five playoff contention seasons and two World Series championships in 1960 and 1971.

The 1960 World Series victory in seven games over Casey Stengel and the New York Yankees on the heels of Bill Mazeroski’s extra inning home run at Forbes Field is one of the signature moments in baseball history. It was a strong enough home run to eventually propel Bill Mazeroski into the Hall of Fame as a player – and it may yet have enough glow left about it to help manager Murtaugh be so duly honored too as a manager.

Let’s make this point clear. The 1960 Mazeroski home run to win the World Series may have been the deciding factor in earning enshrinement for Bill Mazeroski, but it cannot have been the only reason he got there. The man was one of the most athletic and sure-handed defensive second basemen in baseball history. He was richly deserving of the honor on these other qualities of talent and skill.

So it is with the late Danny Murtaugh. He doesn’t deserve the Hall of Fame for his shared “1960 Mazeroski Moment” alone, but for all he did as a manager to bring out the best in Pirates baseball for over three decades and twenty-nine total years of service to PittsburghPirates baseball as a player, coach, teacher, manager, and, yes, role model. Danny Murtaugh achieved by playing the game honestly with integrity. As I remember him, Danny also was the antithesis of Leo Durocher’s famously stuff-quoted expression on what happens to nice guys. Sometimes, when you are the kind of guy that Danny Murtaugh turned out to be, “nice guys finish first!”

Last fall, some of the folks in Pittsburgh got behind a movement to support Danny Murtaugh for induction into the Hall of Fame through a vote of support by the Veteran’s Committee. They came close, but walked away with no cigar. Danny Murtaugh received 8 of the possible 16 votes for Hall of Fame election. He needed 12 for induction and, who knows, maybe next year he will receive the kind of honor that this year passed to former manager Whitey Herzog.

Danny Murtaugh’s career managerial record at Pittsburgh is 1,115 wins against 950 losses. His uniform number 40 already has been retired by the Pittsburgh Pirate organization.

Unfortunately, Danny Murtaugh left us many years ago and at far too young an age. He died of a heart attack in 1976 at the age of 59.

Danny's Pirates won World Series titles in 1960 and 1971.

Murtaugh’s granddaughter, Colleen Hroncich, has written a biography on Danny that is supposed to be available now as “The Whistling Irishman: Danny Murtaugh Remembered.”  I have yet to see it, but here’s a website with information on its availablity:

Also, if you have any strong feelings, one way or the other, on Danny Murtaugh’s qualification for the Hall of Fame, please leave a comment here as a reply to this article.

Thank you.