After Historic All-Minority Lineup And Stellar Managing Career, Danny Murtaugh Belongs In Baseball Hall Of Fame

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Special submission by Al Oliver

Danny Murtaugh, my manager when I played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is again under consideration for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and this time he should be elected. Over his career, he revived a dormant franchise, won two world championships, and consistently produced excellent teams in an era of intense competition in the National League.

And on one night in 1971, he showed that he was exactly the kind of man who should be enshrined in Cooperstown.

On that night, September 1, 1971, we were still fighting for the National League East title, hosting the Philadelphia Phillies at Three Rivers Stadium. Murtaugh sent nine Pirates onto the field to start the game, and it took us players a little while to realize what was happening.

At one point early in the game, while our club was batting, I was sitting on the bench next to my teammate Dave Cash, and I turned to him and said, “Dave, you know, we have all brothers out there.”

Without declaring it or drawing attention, Murtaugh had fielded the first ever all-minority starting lineup in Major League Baseball history.

After the game, which we won 10-7, Murtaugh deflected questions about the event, insisting that he only saw nine men wearing “Pirates” on the fronts of their jerseys.

But later, Dick Allen — another star from that time who is also on the ballot this year — explained that he had seen Murtaugh try to do the same thing in an exhibition game in North Carolina years earlier, only to be stopped by the local Chamber of Commerce. So now, these many years later, I believe that Murtaugh knew the significance.

That 1971 lineup has gotten a lot of attention this year as we marked its 50th anniversary, and I hope that it is a major factor in the minds of the committee members.

But Murtaugh has a lot that argues for his inclusion among the baseball greats in Cooperstown.

When he took over the Pirates during the 1957 season, the club was routinely among the worst in baseball. In an 8-team league, they had finished dead last five times and 7th twice in the years of the decade to that point.

On the day Murtaugh became manager, the Pirates held a dismal 36-67 record, but played above .500 (26-25) for the rest of the season. The following year, the Pirates vaulted to 2nd place with an 84-70 mark, earning Murtaugh his first Manager of the Year award from the Associated Press. He received 149 votes to the runner-up’s six.

By 1960, the Pirates were World Series champions after a dramatic 9th inning home run from Bill Mazeroski — still the only Game 7 walk-off homer in history — and Pittsburgh had earned its first title since 1925. Murtaugh was again named Manager of the Year, this time by the Sporting News.

That victory was even more notable because it was achieved over the mighty New York Yankees, who more than doubled the Pirates’ total scoring, putting up 55 runs to Pittsburgh’s 27. The Pirates overcame Yankee stars like Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris, while Murtaugh outmanaged Hall of Famer Casey Stengel.

In 1971, Murtaugh’s club was back in the World Series, again facing a heavy favorite in the Baltimore Orioles, who featured four 20-game winners on their pitching staff (Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer, and Pat Dobson) and stars Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, and Boog Powell. Murtaugh bested another Hall of Fame manager in Earl Weaver, and the Pirates triumphed in another seven-game series.

Murtaugh’s teams won over 90 games five times, finished 1st five times, and saw him accumulate 1,115 career victories, good for a .540 winning percentage. This ranks higher than eleven managers already in the Hall of Fame: Joe Torre (.538), Tony La Russa (.537), Whitey Herzog (.532), Ned Hanlon (.530), Tommy Lasorda (.526), Bill McKechnie (.524), Dick Williams (.520), Casey Stengel (.508), Wilbert Robinson (.500), Bucky Harris (.493), and Connie Mack (.486). He is tied with Leo Durocher.

His two World Series titles are more than nine current Hall of Fame managers and equal to five others.

Murtaugh’s numbers would be even gaudier had he not battled health problems, which caused him to retire four different times and ultimately pass away at the young age of 59. It was Murtaugh’s indispensability that compelled the Pirates to keep bringing him back when they needed a steady skipper.

The Hall of Fame’s Golden Days Era committee will meet to vote on December 5th, and I encourage them to put Murtaugh in his rightful place in Cooperstown.

I played a lot of baseball — very well, some would say — and maybe one day I’ll get the call. But on this year’s ballot, it’s clear to me that the time has come for Danny Murtaugh.

Al Oliver is a former Major League Baseball player who amassed 2,743 career hits, 1,326 runs batted in, and a career batting average of .303. A seven-time All-Star and member of the 1971 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates, he played for seven different teams over 18 seasons from 1968 to 1985, mostly for the Pirates.

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