03/08/2007 11:22 AM ET
Remembering John Vukovich
"As a player, coach, instructor, advisor and above all, friend, he made a tremendous contribution to our organization and all of us. He was a fierce competitor who possessed tremendous baseball knowledge and had great respect for the game. He always wanted to see the game played right.
"Vuk battled his illness privately and with dignity with his loving wife Bonnie, daughter Nikki, and son Vince, by his side.
"Since the day he signed with us in 1966, Vuk devoted himself to baseball and the Phillies. Today we lost our good friend and a special member of our Phillies family."
-- David Montgomery, Phillies President
"Vuk was special. I've had the honor to know John for 37 years and I will never forget him. He was a Phillie through and through. Vuk had a great sense of humor, terrific knowledge of the game of baseball and was a fantastic family man. His passing is a great loss to the Phillies family and baseball as a whole. My prayers go out to his wonderful family."
-- Bill Giles, Phillies Chairman
"We knew each other for over 30 years from spring training. Being with Vuk last season I realized he had one of the sharpest minds in the game.
"His experience and knowledge was invaluable to our management team and he contributed greatly to changing the face of the club for 2007.
"He had a great sense of humor and a tremendous love and respect for the game.
"We will all miss him very much. My heart goes out to Bonnie and his family."
-- Pat Gillick, General Manager
"Vuk is much more than a friend to me. Vuk is family. Ever since I can remember being on a baseball field--from Eugene, Oregon (at 5 years old) to the GM's box at Citizens Bank Park--he has been a special part of my life.
"He helped me grow as a man; as a Major League baseball player; as a Major League executive. Very few people in my life have helped shape me as a person and as a baseball man as has Vuk.
"I can remember spending many hours in Chicago at my father's high-rise condo (Vuk was a boarder there) discussing why I thought it was so much easier to lay off the high fastball rather than the low pitch. Vuk and I had a lot of arguments over the years and that was the first one. Of course, he was right. I was wrong. This was usually the case, but not always.
"I will remember him as a friend, coach, mentor and a host of many other things, but what he was most for me is family."
-- Ruben Amaro Jr., Assistant General Manager
"The Phillies and baseball have lost an outstanding baseball man and he will be greatly missed. His work as a spring training organizer, infield instructor, as well as a bench and third-base coach often went unnoticed by the general public. But, all of those people in baseball held a great deal of respect for his vast experience and knowledge. His passing leaves a great void that will be hard to fill."
-- Mike Arbuckle, Assistant GM, Scouting and Player Development
"I have so many memories of the times he and I spent together. I watched him grow up in baseball, give every ounce of himself to reach his goal in the major leagues and stay there.
"Vuk was very important to me and our success in 1980, not so much for what he did on the field, but what he did in the clubhouse and behind the scenes. He understood and helped carry my message. It helped us win a championship and put rings on our fingers.
"He helped me turn around the franchise in Chicago. We became one of the best in baseball and he was a big part of the success.
"He worked and taught the Phillies players how to be professional and play the game the right way during his coaching career with the Phils. That was his strength.
"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.
"Vuk was one of my best friends. I will miss him terribly, including the many heated arguments we had. Sylvia and I send our deepest sympathies to Bonnie, Nicole and Vince. He may be gone, but he will never ever be forgotten."
-- Dallas Green, Senior Advisor to Pat Gillick
"John was one of my closest friends. Our relationship began over 40 years ago when he signed with the Phillies. He was not only a true baseball man but also an ardent hunter. Over the years, we spent a lot of time together on deer stands and in duck blinds.
"One of Vuk's outstanding qualities was his innate ability to tell it the way it was. You always knew exactly where he stood on any issue whether it pertained to baseball or not.
"I will miss him and greatly appreciate his years of service to the Phillies organization both on and off the field."
-- Ruly Carpenter, Former Phillies Owner
"He was the best friend I had. He was a man's man, a very honest person.
"As a teammate and long-time friend I am saddened at the passing of John Vukovich. He was a favorite of mine, being the first major league player I met upon signing in 1971, a teammate in triple-A Eugene in 1972, a long-time teammate in Philly, and an opponent with the Reds and Cubs. He affected countless of us in the years he gave to baseball as a player and coach. While he will most be remembered for his defensive skills at third base, I will most remember his charm, smile, and endearing wit. The Phillies family has lost another lovable and treasured member. Donna and I join everyone in prayer for Bonnie, Vince, Nicole, and the rest of the Vukovich family during this difficult time."
-- Mike Schmidt
"I've known John since 1968, when we played instructional league and minor league ball together, then on to the big leagues. I roomed with Bowa and everybody knows that Vuk, Bowa and myself became good friends. He made a difference in my life, as well as my approach to the game. John WAS Mr. Baseball in Philly. I will remember him first as a great family man, as well as one of my best friends. I surely will miss seeing him and talking baseball at the BBQ stand. My prayers go out to his family."
-- Greg Luzinski
"Vuk was a man's man. He was tough on and off the field as a player and a coach. He knew the game of baseball as well as anyone and was a most important fixture in the Phillies organization. After going through what we did with the Tugger, this is another sad time for the Phillies and certainly Vuk's family and friends. He was a loyal friend and a terrific teammate. We will all miss him."
-- Larry Christenson
"Vuk was one of my favorite teammates. He embraced the game and was very supportive of all his teammates. He got along with everyone, welcomed me with open arms, and I will miss him."
-- Pete Rose
"Vuk was a dear friend since 1969 - a great baseball man. We stayed tight because of baseball for a lot of years. There is no one with higher character in the game."
-- Bob Boone
"Vuk was a deer hunter and so am I. We used to tell each other lies: how big the one was we got the year before and how big the one was that got away. On one of our baseball road trips, I was wearing a bronze deer head for a belt buckle. Vuk saw it and said he needed to find one like that. I immediately took mine off and gave it to him. Every time I saw him after that, he always had that buckle on.
"I know I feel the same as every other member of the Phillies family; if I was ever in a bar room fight, or if I just needed a friend to talk to, I would want Vuk standing beside me. God bless his family."
-- Ron Reed
"I got my first taste of the big leagues around Vuk. He showed me the proper way to go about my business and I respected him a lot for that. His knowledge of baseball was second to none and I'm definitely going to miss him."
-- Chase Utley
"Vuk always showed me a lot of love. I got to play with his son Vince [in the minor leagues], so he came to a lot of games. He always had good things to say about me. We will miss him, we all love him and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."
-- Ryan Howard
"He was like a brother to me ... one of the most loyal people I've ever met in baseball."
-- Jim Fregosi, Former Phillies manager
"We are blessed beyond measure to live our lives within the game of baseball. It is the nature of the game that through many years we make hundreds upon hundreds of acquaintances. Culled from those acquaintances are a very few select precious friends - friends for all of life, friends through wins and losses, through tears and high fives, friends whose families you watch grow up.
"I began with the Cubs in 1982 with Vuk - his first year with the Cubs. He became my first friend in baseball and one of those three or four people that will forever be my friend. My dad died three weeks into my first baseball season in 1982. Since then, I think of him practically every single day. I'll be doing the same with my buddy Vuk."
-- Ned Colletti,
General Manager, Los Angeles Dodgers
"We talked on the phone 3-4 times a week for years. He loved to hang up in the middle of a conversation which would tick me off. Vuk called me every year on my birthday, including this January when he was in a weakened condition. That really touched me. In life you can count your real, real friends on one hand. He was one of my five fingers."
-- Don Zimmer,
Senior Baseball Advisor, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
"In my short time in Philly, I would say that Vuk had the greatest impact on me, not only as a coach of mine, but also as a friend. Sitting on the bench and talking baseball and life and hunting, he became a very good friend of mine. It's very sad to hear what happened.
"He was a very special man who had a knack for making people smile.
"He had a way of running spring training like no other. It was fun because of that grumpiness but you could tell he always loved you. Just Vuk being Vuk lifted everyone every day in the spring when he would give his talks. He made baseball fun and I feel fortunate to have learned from a great baseball mind.
"I love him so much and will miss him."
-- Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox first baseman
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Bonnie, Nicole and Vince. There'll be a lot of people in heaven toeing the line."
-- Terry Francona, Boston Red Sox manager
"Vuk always had a great reputation and I knew a lot of people in the game respected him. But I didn't know him that well until we went to Japan together on the Major League tour a few years ago. We became good friends and I could see why everyone loved and respected him so much. This is like losing one of our own - he will be missed by everyone."
-- Bobby Cox, Atlanta Braves manager
"John Vukovich was the epitome of the phrase 'a baseball man.' As a player and coach, he always gave the game everything he had with 100% determination. As intense a competitor as he was, he still had time to laugh and have fun with his contemporaries.
"He will be sorely missed and forever remembered.
"My prayers and thoughts are with Bonnie and her family."
-- Harry Kalas, Phillies Hall of Fame announcer
"John Vukovich was a throwback. He believed that wearing the uniform of a professional baseball team was an honor and a privilege. He wanted players to be professionals and play the game right and he never wavered in his belief. Many players fought his ways while playing for his teams but they always returned at some point and thanked him for making them better players and people.
"Vuk was the best friend a man could have and he loved a good argument. He was rough and tough on the outside but truly was a kind, gentle man who would do anything to help his friends.
"I was lucky enough to be one of those friends and will never forget all the life lessons he taught me. I will miss his friendship and advice.
"But most of all I will miss those wonderful talks at all hours of the day or night. He was a man's man and a Philadelphia Phillie to the very end."
-- Chris Wheeler, Phillies broadcaster
"It's an unbelievable loss for baseball, not just for the Phillies, but for all of baseball. He touched so many players. He had a hard side to him, but most people never saw how big his heart was."
-- Larry Andersen, Phillies broadcaster
"I first met John in 1979 when he was playing for the Phillies' Oklahoma City farm club and I was working in the minor leagues for the Cardinals. We reunited 10 years later when I came to Philadelphia. Vuk was so helpful to me in getting settled in the area and adjusted to the Phillies organization.
"I was truly amazed at his many 'connections' with people ranging from real estate to cars to even firewood! I soon came to realize just how many friends he had.
"He was a hard-nosed competitor on the field and in the clubhouse, but off the field he had a heart of gold and would do anything in the world for you if you were one of his friends. He loved baseball and insisted that the game be played the right way. He commanded the respect of even the toughest guys on the club.
"He was proud to be a Major Leaguer and most of all a Phillie. He truly loved the Phillies and the people of Philadelphia. We have lost a great Phillie and I have lost a dear friend. My prayers go out to Bonnie and the family."
-- Frank Coppenbarger, Director, Team Travel and Clubhouse Services, Phillies
"I spent seven years coaching with him in the big leagues and I learned more about baseball through him than I had in my entire career. We didn't just lose a good baseball man, we lost a great person. You can't replace a John Vukovich as either a baseball man or a human being."
-- Ramon Henderson, Phillies Bullpen Coach
"John was old-school when it came to the game of baseball and life. He wanted the game played the right way and he worked tirelessly to make players better. And, he lived his life the right way. He was loyal to his friends and devoted to his family, and he had a lot of fun along the way.
"He was the kind of guy who everyone wants to have as a friend, and I am blessed to be able to say that he was my friend."
-- Ed Wade, San Diego Padres scout
"He was a very dear friend the last half of my life. Our friendship went beyond being in the clubhouse together.
"He was the most loyal and intelligent coach I've ever been associated with.
"I will always remember him. That will never go away."
-- Lee Elia, Tampa Bay Devil Rays scout
"John was very assertive in his coaching and knew one way and that was to win. He was a no-nonsense guy working with players. Vuk was a big part of the success we had in 1993."
-- Lee Thomas, Former Phillies GM
Although we grieve the loss of this wonderful man there is a standing ovation in the Heavenly realms. The baseball world will truly miss Vuk as his dedication and desire for excellence is second to none. There has never been a closer friend of mine and the memories will forever remain in my heart.
May God Bless the Vukovich family to continue to share his love and light!
-- Darren "Dutch" Daulton
"John was the consummate baseball man. He took his job seriously, but made friends easily. He will be missed by everyone in the Cubs organization."
-- John McDonough, Interim President, Chicago Cubs
"If I was ever to do battle with anyone I would want John Vukovich in my corner. Loyalty and strength was what Vuk was about. I love John Vukovich."
-- Bruce Froemming, National League umpire
"There is not much you can say. John was a good baseball man and a good father. He was just a good man, period. He has been a good friend for a long time."
-- Pat Corrales, Washington Nationals coach
"John was a true keeper of the game. Lessons learned on the diamonds of his youth and playing career from a generation of players before him he passed to the generation of players that followed. As a player, coach and manager John possessed a passion for the execution of skills and the will to win. We have all won something very special by having had John in our lives."
-- Jeff Cooper, former Phillies trainer
"I've known him since we were kids. He was the very best friend all of my life. He was hard-nosed, loved the game, loved his family, honest and someone who had a lot of friends. I will miss him dearly. His memory will stay with me forever."
-- Larry Bowa
"Our thoughts and prayers are with John Vukovich's family, in particular with his wife, Bonnie and with the Phillies' family-our hearts go out to them."
-- Tim McGraw and the Tug McGraw Foundation
"Vuk was one of my really good friends. As a player, he always busted his rear. I really enjoyed visiting he and Bonnie when I was in Philly. I'm going to miss seeing him."
-- Bob Uecker