In times like these these, both off and hopefully on the field at some point, we need strong leaders to get us through. Now everyone who knows me is aware that I don’t talk politics, at least I try to avoid the topic, so I am not going down that rabbit hole. I also don’t feel the need at this moment to address the MLB and MLBPA negotiations, as we all have our feelings on this situation and it is not my goal to change anyone’s mind. With Monday having been Memorial Day I choose to look inwards, reflect on the past, focus on the positive, hope for the future and as always thank the men and women of our military who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect all that we and they hold dear.
All of this introspection and rumination made me start to look back on all of the Pittsburgh Pirates managers I have observed over the years and the ones that came before them. I also began to think about the type of manager Derek Shelton will be, but that discussion is meant for another day. For now I would stick to examining the list of the previous 45 Pirates mangers, behind the scenes of course, in order to provide all of you out there with the Top 5 of All Time, which was a lot harder that you might imagine since I have actually only seen one or two of greats in action.
5) Bill McKechnie
For any of you that have been to Pirates Spring Training game or a Bradenton Marauders home contest, the name McKechnie should sound pretty familiar, as the field was named after him before becoming LECOM Park in 2017. Born in Wilkinsburg, he became a Pirates player to start his career and got his first shot in MLB as a manager in Pittsburgh; a position he held from 1922-1926, bringing a World Series to the city in 1925. After a dispute between his players and management in 1926, 3 veteran players were removed from the team, ultimately costing the team the season and McKechnie his job. In 5 seasons as manager he posted a record of 409-293.
4) Chuck Tanner
The New Castle native returned to Western PA in the off-season prior to the 1977 season having been part of the trade that sent Manny Sanguillen to the Oakland A’s. Within 3 years he would bring a World Series back to Pittsburgh, their last one to date, as the leader of the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates. Unfortunately for Tanner he would not experience the same level of success, eventually being fired after a 104 loss season in 1985. He finished his time with the Pirates career with an overall record of 711-685.
3) Jim Leyland
I am partial to Leyland because he the manager of my childhood, but there is no denying that he is one of the Pirates all-time greats. With a career record of 851-863 in Pittsburgh, he is the only on this list who fell under .500. However, with three straight NLCS appearances (1990-1993), as well as two Manager of the Year Awards (1990 and 1992), he deserves to be on this list just as much as the men ahead and behind him.
2) Fred Clarke
Clarke was the manager for the Pirates from 1900 to 1915, along with being a player for all but one of those years. As the leader of the club both off and on the field, he led Pittsburgh to their first World Series victory in 1909 and four of their nine pennants in the team’s history. He hit .299, while helping his team to a 1422-969 record, both records for the Pirates, as is his .595 winning percentage. It also be discussed that it is possible that Clarke was possibly responsible, at least partially for the Pirates World Series victory under McKechnie in 1925, due to the fact that he was an honorary bench coach and McKechnie’s right hand man.
1) Danny Murtaugh
Murtaugh had four separate tenure with Pirates from 1957 to 1976, leading the Pirates to two World Series victories; most famously in 1960 over the heavily favored New York Yankees. During his time with the Pirates he compiled 1115 wins and 950 losses, both good for second all time behind Clarke. It should also be noted that on September 1, 1971, Murtaugh was the first manager in major league history to field a starting lineup consisting of nine black players.
With 45 Managers in their history, there were some tough decisions concerning the managers that had to be left of this list, as well as the eventual order of the Top 5. However, that is half of the fun of writing articles like these. The other half comes from the discussion with all of you that always follows.