Phillies: Longtime coach ‘Irish’ Mike Ryan passes away at 78

Exterior general view of Veterans Stadium (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Exterior general view of Veterans Stadium (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Longtime former Phillies player and coach “Irish” Mike Ryan has passed away

The Philadelphia Phillies have lost a longtime member of their family; on Friday, the organization announced the passing of its former player and coach, “Irish” Mike Ryan, at 78.

Ryan played 11 seasons in the majors as a catcher, from 1964 to 1974, starting out with the Boston Red Sox before being dealt to the Phillies in December 1967. Six years after his final professional playing career, a one-year stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ryan joined the Phillies coaching staff as bullpen coach in 1980.

He was a member of the organization’s first-ever World Series championship team, and served in that role until 1995. Thus, Ryan also helped the Phillies to National League pennants in 1983 and 1993.

Ryan is the only person in franchise history to coach in three World Series; he also is the second-longest tenured coach in franchise history, trailing only his former teammate, the late John Vukovich (17 years, 1988-2004).

Phillies Chairman Emeritus Bill Giles calls Ryan “one of the more underrated people in Phillies history,” adding, “his tenure was marked by three World Series appearances and he was a very popular presence in our clubhouse for many years.”

"“On May 2, 1970, Ryan was involved in a very memorable game at Candlestick Park. The Phillies’ starting catcher, Tim McCarver, broke a finger on a foul tip off the bat of future Hall of Famer Willie Mays. Ryan replaced McCarver in the game and, two batters later, also sustained a broken finger on a slide at home plate from another future Hall of Famer, Willie McCovey. Ryan finished the inning but was lifted for a pinch-hitter.”"

“On a personal note, my appreciation for Mike runs deep as he quite successfully caught our ceremonial first ball at the first game in Veterans Stadium history,” Giles continued. “Off the field, he was tough as nails and a very loyal man to the Phillies organization.”

“On behalf of the Phillies family, we send our condolences to his wife, Suzanne, and all of Irish’s many family members and friends.”

Overall in his career, Ryan posted a .991 fielding percentage across 632 games and 570 starts, committing just 34 errors in 3,832 total chances. In 1969, he tied for the major league lead in assists by a catcher (79), besting eventual Hall of Famer Johnny Bench (76), albeit playing in 15 fewer games.

In his six seasons with the Phillies, Ryan batted .190 with 41 doubles, six triples, 21 home runs and 91 RBI in 392 games. Among Ryan’s most memorable occurrences as a player on the team was Opening Day 1971, when he caught the ceremonial first ball that was dropped by a helicopter high above the brand-new Veterans Stadium.