Yesterday’s day off was welcome following a long, emotional day on Tuesday.
Three buses left Bright House Networks Field at 5:30 a.m. for a trip north to attend the memorial mass and reception for the late John Vukovich, one of the most respecting persons ever to wear a big league uniform.
A video clip of Vuk’s career that was aired on Comcast SportsNet was shown to the 96 people on the Delta charter. The breakfast entrees included a chocolate donut, Vuk’s favorite. If Frank Coppenbarger didn’t have chocolate donuts in the clubhouse every day during spring training, he would get lectured (chewed out is a better description) by Vuk.
Logistically, everything went smoothly, including a police escort from the Philadelphia airport. One New Jersey state trooper had a red Phillies cap in his rear window as a testimony to Vuk, who lived in that state. We were back on Clearwater soil by 6 p.m., a bit drained but so appreciative that we could pay our respects to a man loved by so many.
Bonnie Vukovich, son Vince, daughter Nikki and son-in-law Brian Stolarik began greeting friends, neighbors, members of the Phillies organization, the three buses from Florida and numerous other Phillies Alumni at 9:30 a.m. The parade of people, many with tears in their eyes, ended nearly two hours later. Over 700 people were there.
It was the largest array of Phillies Alumni in one place since the closing ceremonies of Veterans Stadium.
In addition to the Florida contingent, Alumni came from all over the country, **** Ruthven (Atlanta), Warren Brusstar (Napa Valley, CA), Doug Glanville (Chicago), Mike Ryan (New Hampshire), Mitch Williams (New Jersey), Ricky Bottalico (Connecticut), Ruben Amaro Sr. (Phoenix), Lenny Dykstra (Los Angeles) and Del Unser (Scottsdale, AZ).
Alumni who flew on private planes included Bobby Abreu, Scott Rolen, Mike Schmidt, Curt Schilling, Terry Francona, Brad Mills, Mike Lieberthal and Randy Wolf.
The memorial mass was beautiful. Faith reflections were given by Jim Fregosi and David Montgomery. Each was outstanding in capturing Vuk. They were followed by an extremely touching tribute by Nikki, who held her emotions in check fairly well considering the circumstances.
During her comments, one noticed tears galore throughout the congregation. Dad was looking down from above. He, too, was shedding tears.