Top 20 Phillies of All-Time (16-20)
By Matt Veasey
17. JOHN VUKOVICH, Coach
‘Vuke’ was the Phillies 1st Round pick in the January 1966 Draft as an 18-year old out of a Sacramento, California high school, and made his MLB debut with the club in it’s final season at Connie Mack Stadium in 1970.
The backup 3rd baseman when the club opened Veteran’s Stadium in 1971, he played in 74 games. After spending all of 1972 at AAA, Vukovich was dealt to Milwaukee.
The Phillies reacquired him in 1975 from the Cincinnati Reds, and he then stayed with the club as a minor leaguer and a backup at the majors level. He was part of the 1980 World Series winning team.
After retiring as a player, Vuke was hired as a coach by ex-Phils manager Dallas Green with the Cubs, and then in 1987 was hired as a coach with the Phillies.
When Lee Elia was fired at the tail end of 1987, Vukovich took the reigns and guided the club to a 5-4 record over the final two weeks. He then remained with the team as a coach in various roles for the next 17 seasons.
He was considered a vital influence on the ‘Macho Row’ team that reached the 1993 World Series, and is one of only three men to ever reach the Fall Classic with the Phillies as both a player and a coach.
In the 2001 season, Vuke was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He fought the condition, but finally succumbed in late 2006 at just age 59. Over the final couple of years of his life, Vukovich had taken on a role as Special Advisor to the General Manager for Ed Wade.
After his passing, the team publicly dedicated their 2007 season to him, and they went on to win the NL East Division crown for the first time since 1993.
John Vukovich enjoyed both the love and the respect of the players, and of the fans. His influence on and off the field for a big part of nearly a half-century earns him a place on this list.