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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The line extended from home plate to the left-field foul pole, as Phillies players, coaches, former players, front office personnel and some media members lined up to pay respects to Phillies icon John Vukovich, who died Thursday after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.
With the Phillies -- and the Red Sox -- lined up for a ceremony, Harry Kalas mentioned Vukovich's name and the crowd hushed. Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell then carried out the No. 18 worn by "Vuk" for all those seasons.
"The Phillies family, along with all the fans and the entire world of baseball, lost a dear friend with the passing of John Vukovich," began Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas. "He's up there with Whitey [Richie Ashburn]."
The crowd cheered.
For many in the organization, this was another way to say goodbye to the man many of them knew from his 31 years in the organization as a player, coach, front office executive ... and friend.
"We wanted to do something tasteful for the fans," said Larry Shenk, vice president of public relations. "It worked out beautifully."
It was impossible to miss "VUK" spelled out at Bright House Networks Field in the third-base coaching box, where it will remain for the rest of the spring, and may be added to Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies will honor Vukovich this season by wearing a patch on the left sleeve of their game jerseys. The patches, which may be ready for Sunday's exhibition game, are black with "VUK" spelled out in white lettering.
A private funeral will be held Tuesday near Vukovich's Voorhees, N.J., home, and many members of the Phillies organization are planning to attend by traveling to Philadelphia on a chartered flight. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Eude Brito, Rollins, Jamie Moyer, Burrell and manager Charlie Manuel are expected to attend.