Born: November 24, 1923|
Buffalo, New York
Died: May 7, 2009 (aged 85)|
Vero Beach, Florida
Daniel Leonard Ozark, born Daniel Leonard Orzechowski (November 24, 1923 – May 7, 2009), was an American coach and manager in Major League Baseball. As manager of the Philadelphia Phillies (1973 through August 31, 1979), Ozark led the Phils to three consecutive National League East Division championships (1976–77–78), but each year his team fell in the National League Championship Series.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Ozark signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers as a teenager and spent over three decades in the Dodger organization. He was a minor league first baseman who spent his entire playing career (1942; 1946–61; 1963) in the Dodgers' farm system. The 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m), 195 lb (88 kg) Ozark, who batted and threw right-handed, hit over 200 home runs during his minor league career, including two 30+ homer seasons. In 1956, he became a playing manager with Brooklyn's Class B Wichita Falls Spudders farm club of the Big State League, and rose through their system in succeeding years all the way to the Triple-A level, winning a division championship with the 1963 Spokane Indians of the Pacific Coast League.
In 1965, he came to the Major Leagues — and the Los Angeles Dodgers — as a coach for Walter Alston. Ozark served eight years (1965–72) on Alston's staff, coaching at first and third bases and in the dugout, until his hiring as manager by the last-place Phillies in October 1972.
The Phillies showed steady improvement in Ozark's first three seasons, and in 1976 broke through by winning 101 games, a club record at the time. The Philadelphia club featured a core of players led by two future Hall of Famers: third baseman Mike Schmidt and left-handed pitcher Steve Carlton. But in the 1976 NLCS, they faced one of the most powerful teams of the era, the defending world champion Cincinnati Reds, and they dropped the Series in three straight games, as the Reds went on to a second successive title.
In 1977, the Phils again won 101 games to cruise to the NL East title. This time, against the Dodgers, they were poised to take a 2–1 Series lead when Los Angeles rallied for three runs in the ninth inning of Game 3 to steal the victory. The following night, in the midst of a driving rainstorm, the disheartened Phils fell to Tommy John's complete game as the Dodgers won the pennant, three games to one.
In 1978, they won only 90 games, but still prevailed by two games in their division, earning the right to face the Dodgers in an NLCS rematch. Again the Phillies lost in four games.
During the 1978–79 offseason, the Phils signed free agent Pete Rose away from the Reds. Fresh off his 44-game-hitting streak season, Rose was expected to put Philadelphia over the top in 1979. But the Phillies—plagued by injuries and a lack of pitching depth—played poorly all season and were still two games under .500 on August 31 when Ozark was replaced by Dallas Green.
Tommy Lasorda knew Ozark from the Dodger organization and selected Ozark to serve as a coach for the National League team for the 1979 All-Star Game in Seattle. After the Phillies fired him, Ozark returned to the Dodgers in 1980 as third-base coach under Lasorda (and was a member of the Dodgers' 1981 World Series championship team), until the two had a falling-out during the 1982 season and Ozark was released. He joined the archrival San Francisco Giants as a coach in 1983–84 as a member of Frank Robinson's staff, and served as the Giants' interim manager in 1984 when Robinson was fired August 5. The Giants won 24 and lost 32 under Ozark, remaining in the basement of the NL West.
Throughout his managerial career, he was frequently lampooned for his malapropisms as a public speaker. Two of his most famous were "Half this game is 90% mental" and "Even Napoleon had his Watergate."
On the morning of May 7, 2009, Ozark died at age 85 at his home in Vero Beach, Florida. Ozark was survived by his wife of 60 years, Ginny; two children, Dwain and Darlene; three granddaughters; and four great-grandchildren.
In 2010, Danny Ozark was inducted posthumously into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.
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