S.T.A.R. winner on Hall of Fame mission
Former Bucs manager Murtaugh has unlikely advocate
NEW YORK -- It's not too often that an 18-year-old girl goes to bat for a Major League manager who passed away 14 years before she was born.
But neither Leslie Stake, nor her mission, could be characterized as ordinary.
As one of six winners -- ages 10-18 -- of the MLB S.T.A.R. Award, which was presented before Tuesday's All-Star Game, Stake is using the publicity to talk about her new undertaking. Stake, along with her father, Steve, is beginning a grassroots campaign to bring attention to former Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh with the hope of making a push for Murtaugh to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Stake's endeavor is made that much more interesting by her story.
The self-proclaimed Pirates fan lives on the Osan Air Base in South Korea, a 13-hour time difference from Western Pennsylvania. For that matter, the closest she's lived to Pittsburgh was when her family resided in Hawaii -- though Stake, whose father is in the military, was too young to even remember that.
She's never been to a Pirates game, though her knowledge of the team and its history would quickly suggest otherwise. Some of that comes from a special sports channel that her family pays extra for. But most of it comes from stories passed down by her father.
"My dad had lived in Pittsburgh all his life, so he raised me up to be a Pittsburgh fan," Stake said on Tuesday, amid a throng of media members congregating on the grass at Yankee Stadium. "Of course, it's not just because he's a Pittsburgh fan that I was, but it was hearing his stories that I just fell in love with the Pirates."
That sea of stories included one about a chance meeting Steve Stake had with Murtaugh, who, at the time, had retired from his 15 seasons as the Pirates' manager. Murtaugh stopped to talk with Stake and an immediate respect was formed.
Soon after telling his daughter the story, Leslie Stake started digging.
She found out that Murtaugh has as good a winning percentage (.540) as half of the 17 managers already in the Hall of Fame. Murtaugh's two World Series championships -- 1960 and '71 -- are also equal to or more than 10 of those 17 Hall of Fame skippers captured.
In fact, Stake adds, Murtaugh and former Bucs manager Billy Meyer are the only two managers to have their numbers retired by a club and still not be enshrined into the Hall of Fame.
"I'm the type of person that doesn't really latch on to things unless I am really interested," Stake said. "And because [my dad] told me what a great person [Murtaugh] was, I became very interested in him."
Now Stake's objective is clear. With the Veteran's Committee casting Hall of Fame votes for former managers and executives every other year, Stake has her sights set on the December 2009 vote.
Murtaugh was among 10 former managers who was up for election in a vote last December, but he fell three votes short of the necessary nine to earn a Hall of Fame plaque.
"Even though he has a great winning percentage, he doesn't have as many wins as other managers because he dealt with health issues a lot," Stake said. "I think to the naked eye, you don't see it as stacking up. But it does."
She and her father are beginning a letter-writing campaign and plan to pen their first letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig soon. A Web site is also in the works.
In the meantime, however, Stake took a break to fly to New York City to enjoy four days of All-Star festivities as one of the S.T.A.R. Award winners.
The award, which is sponsored by Major League Baseball and the Boys & Girls Club, was created last season in order to recognize youth who demonstrate sportsmanship, team spirit, achievement and responsibility.
After receiving 250-word essays from children around the world, a committee selected five U.S. winners and one international winner.
Though the one who turned Stake onto baseball was unable to accompany her at events such as the Home Run Derby, the red carpet parade and Tuesday's All-Star Game, Stake has the memories and the souvenirs to take back home to her father.
And as for summing up her overall experience, Stake didn't need to say much.
"It has been amazing," she said.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.