John Vukovich, Dead At 59

Posted in Baseball at 11:08 am by

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.”

2 Responses to “John Vukovich, Dead At 59”

  1. Chuck Meehan says:

    Mr Vukovich was the type of hard-nosed no-nonsense guy that endeared himself to Philly sports fans, especially after returning to coaching duties weeks after having a tumor removed from his brain in 2001. Unlike a few others in the organization, any issues or criticism with players was done face-to-face and not behind the back via media channels. Its hard for a layman to judge 3rd-base coaches other than to note that it was rare when a Phillie was thrown out at the plate by 10-15 feet when Vukovich was at the helm. I can only hope that Vukovichs suffering was not prolonged and may he rest in peace.

  2. TMC says:

    Vuke is a Philly icon. Sad to see him go, as he seemed like a straight-shooter with plenty of integrity. It is good, anyway, that he was able to live a number of good years after having the tumor removed.

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