From the Philadelphia Daily News’ Paul Hagen.
John Vukovich, who came to embody the Philadelphia ethics of straight talking and hard work during his career as a Phillies player and coach, passed away early this morning from complications arising from treatment for a brain tumor at the age of 59.
Vukovich was never an All-Star in the big leagues and never managed. But he spent more years coaching the Phillies than anybody, from 1988 through 2004, and earned a special niche in the team’s history along the way.
“One time we were playing Pittsburgh,” remembered righthander Curt Schilling, who always went over the hitters with Vukovich before his starts. “Vuke wanted me to throw Jason Kendall curve balls. So I threw him a curve first time up and he hit it out for a home run. I couldn’t wait to hear what he would say when I got back to the dugout. And he said, ˜I didn’t tell you to throw a hanging curve ball, I told you to throw him a curve ball.’”
Former Phillies All-Star, coach and manager Larry Bowa grew up playing American Legion baseball with Vukovich in Sacramento, Cal.
“He didn’t tell players what they wanted to hear. He told them the truth. Some of them didn’t like it. Some of them really liked it,” Bowa said. “It didn’t matter if you were a superstar or just a utility player. When he played, even as a utility player, he wasn’t afraid to get on the big boys. Schmitty, me, (Garry) Maddox, Lefty (Steve Carlton). He didn’t care. He wanted the game played right.”