Danny Ozark, 1923-2009
(In case you haven’t heard, Danny Ozark died today. The following is a story that appeared last month in PHILLIES MAGAZINE. Danny was a dear friend and someone we all will miss very much).
It has been 30 years since Danny Ozark wore a Phillies uniform. Despite being away that long, it hasn’t diminished his affection for Philadelphia and the Phillies.
“Ginny and I really miss Philadelphia,” said the 85-year-old resident of Vero Beach, FL. “We enjoyed our time there. That city is a great sports town. The fans are the greatest. They do express themselves, but that’s OK.
“We made a lot of life-long friends there. We try to get back two-three times a year to visit with them. Ginny enjoys Atlantic City and I like to play golf and see the Phillies whenever possible.”
Ozark follows the Phillies on Direct TV and occasionally when they are in Miami. “I don’t miss many games.”
When the Phillies reached the World Series last October, he was there for the first two games at Citizens Bank Park. “I walked into the park and wanted to visit the Bull (Greg Luzinski). It took me an hour and a-half to get there because fans wanted to chat and wanted autographs. Like I said, the fans there are the greatest.”
Where was he when the Phillies clinched the championship? “Ginny and I were in our living room watching on TV. We were so happy for everyone, Charlie, the players, front office and the fans. Ginny leaned over and said, ‘We could have done that.'”
After eight years as Walter Alston’s third base coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, General Manager Paul Owens hired Ozark as the Phillies manager after the 1972 season. He walked into a young team that featured home-grown talent such as Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, and Bob Boone. Plus a young left-handed pitcher named Steve Carlton.
Ozark molded that young nucleus into a team that won three consecutive National League Eastern Division titles starting in 1976. His 1977 and 1978 clubs won 101 games each season, a club record.
But, in each year, the Phillies failed to climb to the next level, the World Series. Fairly, or unfairly, Ozark received the bulk of the criticism. Owens replaced Ozark with Dallas Green on the last day of August 1979. The following year, they won the World Championship.
Only two other managers in the Phillies long history have won more games than Ozark (594), Gene Mauch (645) and Harry Wright (636). It took Mauch almost nine years to reach that total and Wright, 10 years. Danny did it in less than seven seasons.
No other manager in Phillies history has reached the postseason three consecutive years. For that, Ozark deserves credit.
How does Ozark compare the Phillies’ two World Champions? “They are very similar but the edge goes to last year’s club because of two positions, first base and second base. Chase (Utley) and Ryan (Howard) are superior. Heck, they are better than anyone in the team’s history at those positions.”