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Vukovich dies at 59; won Series rings with Phils, Reds

PHILADELPHIA -- John Vukovich, the longest-serving coach in
Philadelphia Phillies history and a member of their only World
Series championship team in 1980, died Thursday. He was 59.

Vukovich, who had been suffering from complications caused by an
inoperable brain tumor, died in a Philadelphia-area hospital, the
team said in a statement.

A first-round draft choice by Philadelphia in 1966, Vukovich,
who served short stints as manager with Philadelphia and the
Chicago Cubs, spent the last 19 years with the Phillies. He also
won a World Series ring with the Cincinnati Reds in 1975.

From 1988-2004 he was a Phillies coach, and at the end of the
1988 season was interim manager for nine games.

During the 2001 season he was diagnosed with a benign brain
tumor that was surgically removed and treated with radiation
therapy.

He returned to the field that season as third base coach. After
the 2004 season, he accepted a position in the front office as a
special assistant to general manager Ed Wade. Vukovich also was
Philadelphia's spring training coordinator until 2004 and an
assistant last season under new general manager Pat Gillick.

"I watched him grow up in baseball, give every ounce of himself to reach his goal in the major leagues and stay there."
-- Dallas Green, manager of the 1980 world champion Phillies

Late last year, Vukovich experienced persistent headaches and
other symptoms. He was hospitalized in mid-January, although his
family and close friends kept his condition guarded at his request.
It was the first time he missed spring training in nearly four
decades.

The team will wear a black patch bearing Vukovich's nickname, "Vuk," for the upcoming season.

"Since the day he signed with us in 1966, 'Vuk' devoted himself
to baseball and the Phillies," team president Dave
Montgomery said. "Today we lost our good friend and a special member of
our Phillies family."

A utility infielder, Vukovich was a career .161 hitter in 10 big
league seasons. He played 49 games in 1980, when the Phillies won
their only World Series title. He had two stints with Philadelphia
(1970-71, 1976-81), and played for Milwaukee and Cincinnati.

He retired in 1981 and went straight into coaching with the Cubs. Vukovich was an interim manager for the Cubs in 1986
and rejoined the Phillies organization in 1988. He went 5-4 as their interim manager that season.

"I watched him grow up in baseball, give every ounce of himself
to reach his goal in the major leagues and stay there," said
Phillies senior adviser Dallas Green, who was the manager of the
Phillies' 1980 World Series championship team. "I respected him
for his baseball knowledge, dedication to the game and the
Phillies, his loyalty to his managers and organizations, his
honesty and his work ethic. He was one of the best baseball men
I've ever been around."

No one coached the Phillies for as many years as Vukovich. He won the inaugural Dallas Green Special Achievement
award in 2004 for setting a Phillies record by coaching 17 seasons.

"He liked having an effect on players," said Boston manager
Terry Francona, who had Vukovich on his staff during his four years
as Phillies manager. "It's confusing, just hard to understand
sometimes. I catch myself today starting to enjoy the game and
remind myself maybe I shouldn't be."

Former Phillies pitcher and current Boston Red Sox Curt Schilling said Vukovich played an important role in his life and
career.
"John was an incredibly integral part of my life, my career and
a very, very close friend of mine," Schilling said. ``Life was
very simple for him because the answer to every problem was just
keep pushing.''