Remembering Vuk

VukWe held a moment of silence before today’s game in memory of John Vukovich, a dear friend to so many. The Red Sox lined up on the first base foul line, the Phillies on the third base line.

Phillies executives and staff, announcers and Phillies Alumni such as John Kruk, Jim Fregosi, Greg Gross, Jerry Martin and Lee Elia were on the field, lining up along the left field foul line.

Opie Cheek, the Bright House Networks Field supervisor, painted a white “Vuk” in the third base coaches box. Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell carried a John Vukovich # 18 jersey with a black arm band.

Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas handled the field microphone:

“The Phillies family, along with all the fans and the entire world of baseball, lost a dear friend with the passing of John Vukovich.

“’Vuk’ began his professional career 41 years ago in spring training right here in Clearwater. During his playing career he was a member of two World Championship clubs, the 1975 Reds and 1980 Phillies. His coaching tenure with the Phillies from 1988 through 2004 stands as the longest in team history.

“Please pause for a moment of silence for one of the most respected persons ever to wear a big league uniform.”

Throughout the day, former teammates called, Doug Glanville, Bob Uecker, Barry Lersch, Ron Reed and Von Hayes, all offering their condolences. Terry Francona sought out numerous Phillies persons to offer his thoughts. He and Curt Schilling are going to be at the memorial mass for Vuk next week. More about that another day.

We’ve received numerous e-mails from fans with the same sentiment. Thank all of you who took the time to express yourselves.

Eddie Bochman, the scout who signed John Vukovich 41 years ago, also called today. I asked the 86-year-old Bockman about Vuk.

“I first saw him at American River Junior College. He was a great kid from a great family.”

What about his tools? “Well, he could play the game and knew how to play the game. He was a great defensive third baseman. His bat was kind of soft at times but he could hit one out of the park.

“His timing with the Phillies wasn’t the best because we signed a guy named Mike Schmidt. You ever heard of him?”

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