On this date in 1917 long-time Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh was born. He started his baseball career as a player, spending nine seasons in the majors between 1941 and 1951. He made his debut with the Phillies as a 23 year old 2B and led the league in stolen bases despite hitting just .219 and playing only 85 games. He was a regular for the 1942-43 seasons but like many players from that era, he missed time due to serving his country during WW2. He returned for the 1946 season but spent most of that year and the next in the minors. The Pirates acquired him from the Boston Braves in November 1947 as part of a five player trade.
While with the Pirates, Murtaugh hit .290 with 71 RBI’s as the everyday 2B in 1948. The following season he struggled with the bat hitting just .203 in 75 games. He returned to form in 1950 batting a career high .294 but slumped again in 1951 hitting just .199 in 77 games. He spent the next two seasons as a player-manager for the New Orleans Pelicans, a AA affiliate for the Pirates. Murtaugh retired with a .254 major league average over 767 games.
In 1954 Murtaugh spent his first season strictly as a manager, again with New Orleans. The following season he was promoted to their AAA affiliate in Charleston. In 1956 he began serving as a coach for the Pirates and held that job until taking over the major league managing position from Bobby Bragan, who was fired on August 3, 1957. The Pirates went 26-25 under Danny to finish the season, despite starting the year 36-67 under Bragan. In 1958 the Pirates under Murtaugh had their first winning season since 1948 by going 84-70, good for a 2nd place finish in the NL. After slipping a little in 1959 down to 78 wins, the 1960 Pirates led by Murtaugh won the NL crown for the first time since 1927.
The 1960 Pirates brought the city of Pittsburgh it’s first World Series crown in 35 seasons but for Danny he was just beginning to cement his place in the team’s history. He retired from managing following the 1964 season due to health problems but remained in a front office role with the team. He managed again for 78 games in 1967 following the firing of his replacement, Harry Walker but returned to the front office for the next two years. In 1970 Murtaugh again went back down to the field and led the Pirates to an NL East crown. The following year he went one step further, taking the team to the World Series where he became the only manager to win two World Series titles with the Pirates.
Murtaugh stepped down again after the 1971 season but returned for a 4th stint at the end of 1973. He led the Pirates to two more NL East crowns in 1974 and 1975 giving him five first place finishes in 12 full seasons on the Pirates bench. He retired for the last time following the 1976 season and unfortunately passed away in December of that same year. The Pirates retired his #40 jersey during opening day on 1977. Murtaugh finished with a 1115-950 record as a manager. He ranks 2nd in team history in wins to Fred Clarke and only Clarke has managed more games and seasons for the team.
Also on this date in 1903 the Pirates lost game six of the 1903 World Series to the Boston Americans by a 6-3 score which evened up the series. Full coverage of that game can be read here.
Born on this date in 1870, was pitcher Tom Colcolough, who played for the 1893-95 Pirates. He went 16-11 for the Charleston Seagulls of the Southern Association, prior to making his major league debut on August 1,1893 for the Pirates. Colcolough went 1-0, 4.12 in eight games, three as a starter, during that rookie season. His results were good despite bouts of wildness, leading to a 32-7 BB/SO ratio in 43.2 innings. The next season, offense was up across the league due to the pitching distance being moved back five feet to it’s current distance and Colcolough was hit hard. He made 14 starts and nine relief appearances, posting a 7.23 ERA. He was still wild and not much of a strikeout pitcher, issuing 72 walks, with just 29 strikeouts to his credit. Despite all those numbers, he still managed to finish with an 8-5 record, thanks to strong run support from a big Pirates offense. Cocolough didn’t last long during the 1895 season. After a poor pitching performance on June 1st, he was back in the minors. His only other major league experience was 14 games for the 1899 Giants. He finished 10-8, 6.55 in 38 games for the Pirates, 23 as a starter.