08/07/2009 9:22 AM ET
Phillies salute alumni on Saturday night
Ginny Ozark, Rogers McKee, Maje McDonnell and Freddie Schmidt are the special guests among 50 Phillies Alumni that will be saluted during the Toyota Phillies Alumni Night prior to Saturday night's game at Citizens Bank Park. Ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m. with the Marlins-Phillies game to follow.
Mrs. Ozark is the widow of Danny Ozark, who managed the Phillies from 1973 into 1979. Danny, who died on May 7 in Vero Beach, FL, is the only manager in team history to win three division titles, 1976-77-78. He ranks third on the Phillies all-time list for wins by a manager (594-510). Charlie Manuel will present Mrs. Ozark with a #3 jersey worn by her late husband.
McKee is an 82-year-old from Shelby, NC. On the last day of the 1943 season (October 3), the left-handed pitcher defeated the Pirates in Pittsburgh. He was 17 years, 7 days old at the time and is in the record book as the youngest pitcher in modern Major League Baseball history to win a game. It was his only decision in a five-game big league career.
Scout Cy Morgan signed McKee right after the 1943 American Legion season in Shelby.
"He offered $3,000 to sign with the Phillies," recalls McKee. "When he said I would report right away to Philadelphia, pitch some BP, perhaps an exhibition game and make the final road trip, that was the selling point."
His debut came on August 18 when he was 16 years of age at Shibe Park, three relief innings (three runs). He turned 17 on September 26 and won his historic game seven days later, a game that took 1 hour, 48 minutes.
Because of World War II, big league clubs didn't hold spring training in the south. "We had spring training in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1944" said McKee. "It was cold and there was snow on the ground. We worked out every day in a big field house for a couple of weeks. Finally, we got to go outside one day. Something happened and I was never the same again.
"My arm didn't hurt and I could throw without pain but it didn't get to home plate as fast. That made a big difference," he laughed. "Back then, you put heat on your arm if something was wrong. Now it has been proven to put ice on your arm. I knew pitchers that even used butter when their arms hurt."
McKee pitched in one big league game with the Phillies in 1944 (September 26). He spent most of the season with the Wilmington (DE) minor league team, pitching and playing first base. He bounced around the minor leagues until "1957 or 1958."
McDonnell, 89, retired last month after being with the Phillies for 56 years. His Phillies resume: batting practice pitcher (started in 1947), coach, scout, ticket seller, tour guide, Phantasy Camp instructor and the organization's face and voice in the community.
Schmidt, a right-hander, pitched in 29 games for the Phillies in 1947, 5-8 record. At 93 years of age, the Wind Gap, PA, resident is the sixth oldest living Phillies player.
Joining this quartet on the field will be 46 other Alumni, from Dick Allen to Bobby Wine and including four Hall of Famers, Robin Roberts, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt and Senator Jim Bunning.
John Vukovich Award
Included in the pregame ceremonies is the presentation of the 2009 John Vukovich Award to Roly de Armas, current manager of the Phillies team in the Gulf Coast League. He's been a member of the Phillies minor league instructional staff from 1977 to 1992 and again since 2000.
Since Vukovich's death in 2007, the Phillies annually honor an instructor in the Phillies organization
someone who embodies the characteristics of Vuk: loyalty, dedication, competitiveness, knowledge, honesty and a terrific work ethic.
Several Alumni members will participate in the Stephen Starr and Garry Maddox Barbecue Challenge, a free event that takes place on Saturday from 4:00-7:00 p.m. along Citizens Bank Way.
Attendees can enjoy family-friendly entertainment and sample barbecue and other foods prepared by participating restaurants. Sampling tickets are available for purchase in the contest location (3 for $10) and can be redeemed at participating stands while supplies last. All proceeds benefit the Youth Golf & Academics Program. Includes appearances by alumni and other special guests.