Tuesday, March 20, 2007

John Vukovich

The two best pieces of writing I read dealing with the recent death of Phillies lifer John Vukovich were both written by two Philly baseball insiders. I know I'm quite late to the news, but if you haven't read either article yet, go for it.

Marquis Grissom flat-out owned me. I couldn’t get him out no matter what I threw or where I threw it. Vuk would tell me day after day, “Fastball in Schill. He can’t hit it.” I tried, but nothing seemed to work. One day in Montreal I throw a fastball in on his hands, explode his bat, and he grounds out. I peek at the bench and Vuk stands up, bows, and doffs his cap.

We’re in Three Rivers Stadium playing the Pirates. Jason Kendall has had some success off me, and Vuk keeps harping, “He can’t hit a curveball, Schill.” We’ve argued about this at least 50 times. Seventh inning, Kendall at the plate, first pitch curveball, home run. I look over at the bench, and Vuk is shaking his head. I am so mad I can’t see straight, blaming Vuk for throwing a bad pitch. . . .

The inning ends. I walk into the dugout, pass Vuk without looking, and hear, “I said curveball. At no time did I say the word HANGING curveball.”

I also thought Jay Jaffe put it well, summing up feelings that I have towards Vukovich nicely - I can't say I always agreed with Johnny Vuk's old school line of thinking, but anybody who loves baseball like he did is alright by me:

As an outsider who never met Vukovich, I can’t speak to that, but it’s clear such individuals are vital to baseball. The stars put fans in the seats, but it’s the Vukoviches who perpetuate the game, and it’s a sad day to note that there’s one fewer to do that today.