Danny Ozark died today in Vero Beach, Fla., at the age of 85. Ozark never played in the major leagues but had a long minor-league career.
He played 18 minor-league seasons in the Dodgers farm system. He hit 238 minor league homers and had a .282 lifetime batting average.
Ozark is best known for managing the Phillies from 1973-1979 and managed the Giants for part of the 1984 season. He managed the Phillies to identical 101-61 records in 1976 and 1977.
He didn’t have complete respect of his players after making a decision to leave Greg Luzinski in a 1977 playoff game in which Luzinski mishandled a ball off the wall.
Ozark had usually substituted for Luzinski in the late innings, but Luzinski was scheduled to hit third the next inning, so Ozark left him in the game.
The next season when he went to the mound to take Steve Carlton out of a game Carlton spiked the ball on the ground instead of giving it to Ozark.
The Phillies finished sixth in the 1973 season, his first as the manager. But then, he led them to a third-place finish, a second-place finish, three first-place finishes but was let go in the 1979 season when they finished fourth.
Only Gene Mauch, with 645 wins,, and Harry Wright, with 635 wins, won more games as the Phillies manager, with Ozark winning 594 games in Philadelphia.
He was born Daniel Leonard Orzechowski in Buffalo, N.Y., on Nov. 24, 1923.
Mike Schmidt had this to say about Ozark today:
“I was saddened by the news.”
“He was a good friend, my first major league manager and played a major role in the early years of my career, and was instrumental in building us into prominence in the mid-1970s.”
Ozark served during World War II and received a Purple Heart and five battle stars after seeing action at Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ginny.