Former Phillies Coach Vukovich Dies

Thursday, March 8th 2007, 10:46 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ John Vukovich, the longest-serving coach in Philadelphia Phillies history and a member of their only World Series championship team in 1980, died Thursday. He was 59.

Vukovich, who had been suffering from complications caused by an inoperable brain tumor, died in a Philadelphia-area hospital, the team said in a statement.

A first-round draft choice by Philadelphia in 1966, Vukovich, who served short stints as manager with Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs, spent the last 19 years with the Phillies. He also won a World Series ring with the Cincinnati Reds in 1975.

During the 2001 season he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that was surgically removed and treated with radiation therapy.

He returned to the field that season as third base coach. After the 2004 season, he accepted a position in the front office as a special assistant to general manager Ed Wade. Vukovich also was Philadelphia's spring training coordinator until 2004 and an assistant last season under new general manager Pat Gillick.

Late last year, Vukovich experienced persistent headaches and other symptoms. He was hospitalized in mid-January, although his family and close friends kept his condition guarded at his request. It was the first time he missed spring training in nearly four decades.

``Since the day he signed with us in 1966, Vuk devoted himself to baseball and the Phillies,'' said team president Dave Montgomery. ``Today we lost our good friend and a special member of our Phillies family.''

A utility infielder, Vukovich was a career .161 hitter in 10 big league seasons. He played 49 games in 1980, when the Phillies won their only World Series title. He had two stints with Philadelphia (1970-71, 1976-81), and played for Milwaukee and Cincinnati.

He retired in 1981 and went straight into coaching with the Chicago Cubs. Vukovich was an interim manager for the Cubs in 1986 and rejoined the Phillies organization in 1988. He went 5-4 as their interim manager that season.

``I watched him grow up in baseball, give every ounce of himself to reach his goal in the major leagues and stay there,'' said Phillies senior adviser Dallas Green, who was the manager of the Phillies' 1980 World Series championship team. ``I respected him for his baseball knowledge, dedication to the game and the Phillies, his loyalty to his managers and organizations, his honesty and his work ethic. He was one of the best baseball men I've ever been around.''

Vukovich won the inaugural Dallas Green Special Achievement award in 2004 for setting a Phillies record by coaching 17 seasons.

The team will wear a black patch bearing Vukovich's nickname, ``Vuk,'' for the upcoming season.