I still haven’t been able to rip any 2010 Heritage, which is strange for me because it is my favorite and most anticipated release of the year every year. A few cards have trickled into me from kind readers and I finally got one that I had a match for 1961. Welcome to the Nitty Gritty Old vs. New Cards of the Day! Topps did a pretty darn good of replicating this one. The design is identical front and back. The main difference is (duh) the subject. Danny Murtaugh looks like a stern leader, like someone you would follow into war because he told you to. He looks like a man you don’t want to cross. He died before I was born and I am still scared of the man… This little photo from 50 years ago captures Murtaugh how he was-a leader. He wasn’t buddies with his players, but he knew how to handle them and he won games. He laid down the expectations and you either followed or you played for someone else. His players listened because he knew what he was doing. The dude won over 1,000 games-1,115 to be exact. That was against only 950 losses, good for a .540 winning percentage. He led the Pirates to 2 Worlds Championships and in the 15 seasons he spent at the helm in Pittsburgh the Bucs won more than 90 games 5 times. His teams had stars-he managed Clemente, Stargell and Mazeroski, but the teams weren’t filled with stars. He got the most out of all of his players and made good decisions and had high expectations of his players. I was downright pissed off when he was denied to the Hall of Fame again last year. I make cases for a lot of players to be considered, but Murtaugh is a Hall of Fame manager, case closed. He wasn’t too shabby as a player either. He was a little, tough and gritty infielder. He was a slap hitter with no power and a little bit of speed. He led the NL in steals as a rookie in 1941 with 19. That isn’t exactly a Rickey Henderson total, but it was a dead ball and dead base path era. It was particularly impressive because he paced the league while only playing in 83 games that year. He spent the early part of the season with the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League. The Buffaloes were a Cardinals affiliate and the Cards were the organization he originally signed with in 1937, but in June of ’41 the Philadelphia Phillies purchased his contract and brought him up to the big leagues. He spent his first 4 seasons in Philadelphia, spent a year with the Boston Braves and was in Pittsburgh for his final 4 years. His best year offensively came with the Pirates in 1948.He batted .290 and drove in 71 runs for the Bucs while only hitting one homerun. He also stole 10 bases and had 21 doubles and 5 triples. He scored 56 times and most of those runs were scored ahead of Ralph Kiner homeruns. He and shortstop Stan Rojek were among the best double play combos in baseball and Murtaugh learned the art of baseball from his manager Billy Meyer. Murtaugh watched second base in Pittsburgh for 4 seasons before Bill Mazeroski took the job over. Before I switch gears to John Russell I will state once more that Danny Murtaugh belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Now Mr. Russell. Whereas Danny Murtaugh looks like he could have been your high school principal, Russell looks like your happy go lucky homeroom teacher. His look doesn’t demand or command respect. He looks respectable, but not intimidating. A nice guy that you don’t mind following… With the level of talent that currently lives in Pittsburgh I don’t think that Murtaugh’s approach would work anyway. I like the Pirates and I like John Russell as their skipper. His Bucs burst out of the gate this season and took all of baseball by surprise; I really hope he can keep it up. I am not expecting them to be contenders, but I would be THRILLED with a .500 finish. It could happen. Since this is Old VS. New I suppose I should declare a winner. That would be Danny Murtaugh. That isn't a knock against John Russell, I like the dude. He isn't in a great position. He is a company man though. I don't think that Danny Murtaugh would have stood for what the Pirates execs have done to the team over the last decade. Plus, vintage ALWAYS wins. Thanks for reading, 50 years LATER.