Former Pittsburgh Pitching Coach Ray Miller Dies at Age 76
Ray Miller’s resume as a Major League pitching coach speaks for itself.
The long-time coach tutored five, 20-game winners with the Baltimore Orioles as well as a pair of Cy Young Award winners before joining the Pirates staff where he worked with 1990 NL Cy Young winner Doug Drabek.
Miller, who died Tuesday at the age of 76, is being remembered for much more than just his work with the likes of Jim Palmer, Mike Boddicker, Steve Stone and Drabek.
Miller, who lived in New Athens, which is near Cadiz in Harrison County, is being remembered by fellow Ohio Valley resident — Rich Donnelly — as one of “the finest pitching coaches ever in the big leagues.”
A former third-base coach with the Pirates, Donnelly, who is currently out of baseball for the first time in 52 seasons, learned of Miller’s death from Jim Leyland, who was the manager of the Buccos in the 90s.
“Jim and I were talking and we both believe that in the last 20 years, Ray had his pitchers better prepared than anyone we’ve ever seen in the game to face a certain hitter in a game,” Donnelly explained. “Ray and I as well as the entire staff from those Pirate teams had some great times together.
“He was just a joy to be around. He was so unpretentious, but he was one of the best pitching coaches in Major League history.”
During their time with the Pirates, which for Miller lasted from 1987 until 1996, included three consecutive National League East titles from 1990-92.
“The proof is in the pudding of how good (Miller) was,” Donnelly said. “He would bring the pitchers in before games and it was like they were going to school. He made sure each pitcher knew about the opposing hitters and how to pitch to them.”
All three seasons, however, ended with a loss in the NLCS.
Miller coached Drabek to a 22-6 record and a 2.76 earned run average and eventually the Cy Young.
Donnelly also pointed out the work that Miller did to help transform the career of Bob Walk and the tutelage he provided to young pitchers John Smiley and Tim Wakefield during those seasons as well.
“The 12 pitchers on the staff were his sons,” Donnelly explained. “He protected and took care of them, but more than anything, he prepared them for the games and as well as he could to do their jobs.”
Since both spent their offseason in the Ohio Valley, Donnelly and Miller would see each other more frequently than many of the other members of the coaching staff.
“Ray was a good ole boy,” Donnelly recalled. “He didn’t flaunt anything about who he was or what he did for a living. If you saw him during the winter, you’d never believe he was one of the greatest pitching coaches of all time.”
Actually, both Donnelly and Miller would spend most of their nights during the season at their respective Ohio Valley homes when they were playing at home.
Donnelly recalled one night Miller convinced him to follow him back to the Ohio Valley because he would get them there quicker.
“Rich had this fuzz buster (radar detector) when they first came out and said he could get us home in a half an hour,” Donnelly laughed. “I asked him, ‘what happens if I lose you?” Ray looked right at me and said, ‘I’ll be the car firing cigarette butts out the window.’ It was like tracer bullets because he would smoke a cigarette every mile it seemed like.”
Miller won a World Series ring as a member of the Orioles staff in 1983 and was part of their staff in 1979 when they lost to the Pirates in the World Series.
After his tenure in Pittsburgh, he returned to Baltimore and worked for a season before being hired as the Orioles manager. He held that post for two seasons. He also had a brief stint as the manager of the Minnesota Twins in 1985. He was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2010.