Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#119 - Danny Ozark/Phillies Field Leaders

1973 was Danny Ozark's first as a manager. He succeeded Paul Owens who was also the Philadelphia GM and had hired him. The Phillies were terrible in '72. If it weren't for Steve Carlton, the team would probably have challenged the '62 Mets for futility. Although the '73 bunch was the only NL East team not in the running for the division title, it did pick up 12 wins on that '72 team and introduced future stars like Bob Boone and Mike Schmidt. They would then duel with the Pirates for the top spot the rest of the decade and win the Series in 1980. Ozark was the manager for most of that resurgence and in just about every one of those years his players asked that he be replaced. But by the time he was done in '79 he would have - and still has - the best record of any Phillies manager to manage as many games as he did.

Danny Ozark was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers - as a lot of these guys would be - in 1942. After a year at second base in the low minors he missed all of '43 to '45 to WW II. When he returned in '46 he was moved to first but there were two obstacles. One was that he lived in Buffalo which gave him no time to prepare for the spring training glut of returning servicemen; two is that he had a guy named Gil Hodges ahead of him at first base. Danny would make it as far as Triple A and was a starter at various levels through '55 but he could never crack the bigs. He would hit .282 with over 200 homers in the minors and had some pretty big seasons, twice clubbing over 30 homers. In '56 he got his first management gig in the Dodger chain and he continued to manage in the minors through '64. In '65 he was promoted to coach for Walt Alston which he did through '72. Then came the Phillies job which he kept through pretty much the Seventies. In '76 he won his first division title as well as Manager of the Year. After three straight division titles, a slow start to a '79 season hit hard by injuries got him dismissed. The knock on him was that he was too laid back but he must have done something right since that run hasn't been repeated. In '79 he returned to LA to coach until he had a falling out with Tommy Lasorda in '82. He coached in San Francisco from '83 to '84 then briefly managed the team and then scouted for the club for a bunch of years. His MLB managerial record was 618-542 and in the minors was 665-648. He passed away at age 85 in 2009.

Carroll Beringer was a pitcher who signed with the Dodgers in '46. In '47 he won 22 in Class D ball. He was moving up the ladder when in '51 and '52 he missed whole seasons for the Army. While he pitched well when he returned he was pretty much in neutral in the Dodger system and would get no higher than Triple A. In '59 he went 19-5 to win Pitcher of the Year in the Texas League. By then he was 33 and he began to coach as well as play. He would finish his minor career going 145-82 with a 2.98 ERA. From '61 to '72 he would coach for Alston in LA. He then coached with the Phillies from '73 to '78. He quit the last gig to spend more time with his family in Texas. There he did a bunch of fund-raising for local teams and Texas Wesleyan University. He passed away earlier this year at age 82.

Billy DeMars was an infielder signed by the Dodgers in '43, who played one season in the lower minors and then, like Danny Ozark, got sucked into WW II, missing the next two seasons. He returned to B Ball in '46, had a big '47 season in which he hit .328 and was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the A's in '48, for whom he would debut in the majors that year. He went to Detroit in '49, where he played in Triple A, and then the Browns in '50. He was the primary infield backup for St. Louis that year, got in one game the following year and then returned to the minors for the rest of his playing career. In the majors he hit .237 in 211 at bats and in the minors .267. By '58 he was managing in the - now - Baltimore system, which he did through '68. In '69 he moved to Philly where he was the hitting coach through '81. He then coached at Montreal ('82 to '84) and for the Reds ('85 to '87). He was given props by, among others, Eric Davis and Barry Larkin for help with their hitting, and by Steve Rogers, for help with his curveball. His managerial record in the minors is 711-729. After leaving the Reds Billy returned to the Phillies as a roving minor league hitting instructor, which he did through the Nineties.

Ray Rippelmeyer - the name is spelled incorrectly on the front of the card - was signed by the Braves in '54 while at Southern Illinois University. He was quite the hoops player in college and he was drafted by the Knicks in '55 and inducted into the school's hall of fame. He started well in the minors and by his second season he was up in Double A. But he lost '56 to military duty, returning to Triple A ball in '57. Again he pitched pretty well and after the '59 season he was drafted by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft. When expansion came in '61 he got plucked by the new Senators and in '62 made his major debut. In his only season he went 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA. He did, however, hit .500 with a homer in six at bats. He was then returned to the Reds and the minor leagues where he played through '65. His lifetime minor league record was 114-83. In his final season he managed and then from '66 to '67 coached in the Cincy system. He then moved to the Phillies' system in '68 and '69 and became the major league pitching coach in '70. He stayed up top through '78 where he helped, among others, Steve Carlton with his slider and Jim Lonborg with his big comeback in '76. He initially retired to his Illinois farm after the '78 season and then returned to the Phillies system in the late Eighties. He followed that up with gigs for the Reds ('89-'90) and the Mets ('91-2003) after which he retired for real.

Bobby Wine was a recent player - his final season was '72 - who was signed by the Phillies in '57. He started off strongly in the minors, hitting over .300 his first two seasons. But he was also beaned pretty badly during that time and it led to him being admittedly tentative at the plate for the rest of his career. But he was an excellent fielder and by '62 he was in the majors where he had no errors in 20 games at third base. His main position was shortstop and it was there in '63 that he would win a Gold Glove. He was the Phillies regular there through '68 although he missed substantial time to back injuries in both '66 and '68. He would also be a big help for Dick Allen whenever the latter guy played the outfield. Allen had a notoriously weak throwing arm and Bobby would sprint to the outfield - he actually took lessons from a local college track coach - whenever a ball was hit Dick's way to take the relay. Bobby then went to Montreal in the '69 expansion draft and there succeeded Maury Wills as starter by the end of the season. He had his best offensive season in '70 (.232 with 51 RBI's) and was Montreal's main guy there through '71. For '72 the Expos got Tim Foli from the Mets and Bobby's career as a player was pretty much done. He hit .215 lifetime. He was coaching back with the Phillies before '72 was over which he did through '83 when he was let go after the team lost the Series. He probably would have left anyway since he was passed over a couple times to manage by then. He then moved to Atlanta as a scout ('84 to '85) and coach ('85 to '90) and was an interim manager in '85. He went 16-25 when he managed. From '93 to '96 he coached for the Mets. He then returned to scout for the Braves which he is still doing. His son Robby played a bit and coaches Penn State baseball.

I can't do the double this time since Danny Ozark never made it to the majors:

1. Danny Ozark managed Dave Cash on the '74 to '76 Phillies;
2. Cash and Bill Lee '79 Expos.

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