Former Phillies skipper Ozark dies

Former Phillies skipper Ozark dies

The Philadelphia Phillies lost another icon Thursday when longtime manager Danny Ozark passed away at the age of 85.

Ozark, who ranked third for most wins among Phillies managers, died at his home in Vero Beach, Fla., and was survived by his wife, Ginny, two children, Dwain and Darlene, three granddaughters and four great-grandchildren.

Ozark was named Phillies manager Nov. 1, 1972, and in his first five years, the Phillies won 71, 80, 86, 101 and 101 games. They won three consecutive National League Eastern Division titles starting in 1976, a record unmatched by any other Phillies manager. Each year, however, the Phillies missed on advancing to the World Series.

Ozark finished with a 594-510 record as Phillies manager (1973-79). His winning percentage of .538 is seventh-best in team history. He was named Manager of the Year in 1976 by The Associated Press and The Sporting News.

From all over the Phillies family, Ozark's loss was felt Thursday.

"Danny was a great human being," said club chairman Bill Giles. "He was first-class and a fine gentleman who really cared deeply about his players and his friends. His patience with some of the Phillies young players in 1973-75, particularly with Mike Schmidt, really paid off as the Phillies got to the postseason in 1976, 1977, and 1978 and eventually won the World Series in 1980 after he left. I do believe Danny had a big impact in Schmidt's career by staying with Mike during his struggling rookie season."

Schmidt, a Hall of Famer, echoed those sentiments.

"I was saddened by the news of Danny's passing," Schmidt said. "He was a good friend, my first Major League manager, played a major role in the early years of my career, and was instrumental in building us into prominence in the mid-1970s. He brought a wealth of baseball experience from his years with the Dodgers to Philadelphia and we were fortunate to have him as our leader throughout that time. My wife and I extend our deepest sympathy to Ginny and the Ozark family."

In a story published in Phillies Magazine last month, Ozark expressed great fondness for his time in the City of Brotherly Love.

"Ginny and I really miss Philadelphia," said Ozark, who celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary in February. "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 lifelong friends there."

Ozark began his pro career as a first baseman in the Brooklyn Dodgers system in 1942. Following a Minor League career, he turned to managing in 1956 with the Dodgers' Class B team in Wichita Falls.

Nine years later, Ozark joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as a coach. After leaving the Phillies, he returned to the Dodgers as a coach (1980-82). His career ended with the San Francisco Giants as a coach (1983-84) and interim manager (1984).

"He not only was a solid baseball man, but a truly fine gentleman," Phillies president David Montgomery said Thursday. "The contributions Danny made as a manager in the 1970s are immeasurable. He taught the players how to play baseball. The entire Phillies family sends its deepest sympathy to the Ozark family. We have lost a very dear friend, someone who loved the Phillies."

"Danny was the guy that took us from last to first," added longtime Phillies catcher Bob Boone. "He was the perfect manager for the Phillies in the '70s. He had the patience of Job and helped all of us grow up as men and players. He was a wonderful man. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.