William O'Boyle: Beyond the Byline: Yes, MLB should enshrine Danny Murtaugh

·4 min read

Dec. 5—WILKES-BARRE — Back in 2013, when Lou Barletta was a member of Congress, his communications director was Tim Murtaugh, who went on to be President Donald Trump's campaign communications director in 2020.

Anyway, when I was introduced to Tim Murtaugh, I had to ask:

"Would you be related to former Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh?"

Murtaugh said indeed he was — he is Danny Murtaugh's grandson.

Really? You are thee Danny Murtaugh's grandson? Again, Tim confirmed his lineage.

So here I was, a lifelong New York Yankee fan standing face-to-face with the grandson of the man who managed the Pittsburgh Pirates to victory over my beloved Yankee — a dark memory that haunts all Yankee fans to this day.

And to top it off, Barletta is also a devout Yankees fan. How could he have hired Murtaugh despite Tim being extremely qualified to do the job?

"I told Tim that he can never bring that World Series up in conversation," Barletta quipped.

Barletta, who was a pretty good baseball player back in his day, dreamed of going pro. His idol was Mickey Mantle and his favorite team was the Yankees — two things we have in common. He played center field like Mantle and taught himself to be a switch-hitter, also just like Mantle. Shortly after he was married, Barletta convinced his father that he should drop out of college and head to Tampa, Fla., to participate in a tryout camp.

"I was a lead-off hitter. I could bunt and steal bases. But I didn't make it," Barletta said in a 2007 story in The Times Leader, even though he could get from home plate to first in 3.7 seconds. "They found out I couldn't hit a curve ball. So I came back home and went to work for my dad in the construction business."

This newspaper recently ran an op-ed column by Milt May, a former Major League player who played for Danny Murtaugh. Naturally, the 1960 World Series championship season was mentioned.

Milt May wrote:

"In that one, the Pirates were also massive underdogs, facing the mighty New York Yankees, who featured superstars Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford.

"If you just look at the scoring, it was a massive blowout, as the Yankees outscored the Pirates by a total of 55-to-27. But if you look at games won, it was the Pirates winning in seven games, 4-to-3."

Yeah, yeah, yeah Milt. And yes, we are well aware that 1960 was notable for being the only World Series to end on a home run in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7. Bill Mazeroski hit a lead-off homer in the ninth to make history, and Murtaugh had bested Yankees Manager Casey Stengel, another Hall-of-Famer.

I can still see Yogi Berra in left field watching the ball sail over the wall at Forbes Field. I sometimes have nightmares of that moment 61 years later.

But to Milt May's point, Murtaugh's teams won over 90 games five times, finished first five times and saw him accumulate 1,115 career victories, good for a .540 winning percentage. This ranks higher than 11 managers already in the Hall of Fame: Joe Torre (.538), Tony La Russa (.537), Whitey Herzog (.532), Ned Hanlon (.530), Tommy Lasorda (.526), Bill McKechnie (.524), Dick Williams (.520), Stengel (.508), Wilbert Robinson (.500), Bucky Harris (.493) and Connie Mack (.486). He is tied with Leo Durocher.

Murtaugh's two World Series titles are more than nine current Hall of Fame managers and equal to five others.

OK, I agree. Danny Murtaugh should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He was passed over again Sunday, however, when the Hall of Fame's Golden Days committee, which covers the years from 1950 to 1969, voted to enshrine Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso and Tony Oliva.

Murtaugh passed away in 1976. Mazeroski is 85.

The memory of those two and the Pirates of 1960 will never go away.

Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]

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