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Rest in Peace, Vuk

March 9, 2007

Philadelphia Phillies coach John Vukovich passed away this morning around 10am. I heard the news from a friend a few minutes after I finished my outing in Ft Myers. John Vukovich was the closest thing I had to a father since my dad passed away 19 years ago. I want to take a moment to let anyone who never had the pleasure of meeting him know what a truly exceptional human being he was.

I came to the Phillies via trade on the final day of spring training in 1992 after a tumultuous year in Houston as the closer, set-up and mop-up guy, sent down for a month early in the 1991 season.

I was heading to the bullpen in St. Petersburg on that final day of camp. We were playing the Cardinals when I was told, “Hold on a minute, you aren’t going to pitch today.” A few minutes later I heard, “I think we might have traded you.” Might? When? Where? For who? The only answer I could get out of our pitching coach, Bob Cluck, was, “If you tell anyone I’ll kill you, but I think you’re going to Philadelphia.”

In addition to the shock, (and the fact that my wife was halfway home on the drive back to Houston), my mind was spinning.

A year earlier I had been part of the mega deal with Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch in the trade to Houston for Glen Davis. Now I was being traded again? I soon found out that the teams had swapped “prospects.” Philadelphia was trading Jason Grimsley for me.

I arrived in Miami the next morning to meet the team and prepare for the final exhibition game of the spring. It was raining and the game was cancelled, but I went to the bullpen and threw a long session anyway. There I met John Vukovich for the first time.

To give you an idea of Vuk as a person, I’ll toss out a few words that capture him in a nutshell: old school, tough love, loud, passionate, devoted, loyal, and obsessed with winning. In addition to all of that John was the most respectful man I’ve ever met when it came to the game of baseball. He never let a day pass when he didn’t push himself at something. From hitting fungoes to working on someone’s base running to defense, John was about total commitment.

Things were rather calm early on, even though I didn’t have that fire or rage he wanted from players. What I did have was a consummate desire to be an ace, to win, and to be good. John was the scout who briefed the pitching staff before every series. We’d sit in a room, go down a team’s lineup hitter by hitter, and he’d explain how we were supposed to pitch each player. Vuk made it abundantly clear that if you listened to him no one would get a hit.

Things played out for the first few weeks of the season until Andy Ashby was hit with a line drive by Mackey Sasser of the Mets and broke his wrist. They decided to give me his starts and see how things played out.

That decision marked the beginning of a relationship between John and me that endured over the next 16 seasons. Every game we’d hold our own meeting before my start, and he would keep notes on hitters exclusively for me. I started to learn that pitching in the big leagues was far from what I imagined it to be. I also began to see how much John cared about me and my family. We talked often, a lot of times about nothing but life, but there was always some message he was trying to send whether I recognized it or not.

“Keep pushing, Schill. No matter what happens, keep pushing.”

That’s it. In his mind, life really was that simple. No matter what you were up against you just kept pushing. Whatever happened, things would work themselves out if you kept pushing yourself.

We had run-ins . . . many. Vuk was the first person to get in my face when he felt I wasn’t pushing myself. He was also one of the few men – like my father – who, if he gave you a pat on the ass or said, “Great job,” made it clear you’d really done something special. He made you earn his praise. Cal Ripken Sr. was the same way. That’s how my dad was.

I imagine thousands of former players could tell Vuk stories, and every one of them would have this same message in their story somewhere.

Two events with Vuk really stand out for me.

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 was so pissed I laughed.

In 2000, after I was traded away to Arizona, I would call Vuk the day before every game I pitched. I would go over my notes and compare them with his, and we’d come up with a game plan for the next day. This went on for a good, long time. When it got to the point where I felt I had notes upon notes, I’d still call Vuk just to talk. My father’s passing had left me with a need for an older male figure to help me navigate life’s tough stretches, and Vuk was always there for me.

I learned of Vuk’s initial cancer diagnosis soon after he did. He was very stoic about it when I called. “I’ll just keep battling, Schill. This thing won’t beat me.” He had surgery, got better, and returned to the field well before anyone in the medical world wished he would, but anyone who knew John knew that was exactly how he wanted it.

He had some vision problems but nothing major. He spent a bit more time on the field, but eventually the Phillies moved him into an assistant to the GM position. This had to kill him internally; the field was his office and home and the only place other than the clubhouse he wanted to be. We spoke every time my team played the Phillies. He was always a friendly, familiar face, and his smile was infectious. “C’mere, big boy!” That was Vuk.

Late last winter I learned he’d had a relapse of cancer, and it was incurable. No one could reach him. He didn’t want to talk to or see anyone. Vuk was going through massive chemotherapy, and I heard he looked like a shell of himself. Mike Ryan, the bullpen coach in Philadelphia known to us as “Irish,” drove from Maine to see him. John refused to come to the door. Irish sat on his porch for five hours until Vuk finally opened up.

I heard from a lot of former teammates that no one could reach Vuk, so I called him. I was in the middle of leaving a long voice message, telling him that Gehrig and my other kids were thinking of him and that Shonda and I were praying, when he picked up the phone. I couldn’t even recognize his voice.

“Hey, big boy, how ya doing?” he asked. We spoke for a few minutes, and I could tell it was an immense strain for him to even talk. “I’m gonna beat this thing, Schill. No one thinks I can, but I’m gonna keep battling and beat it.”

A few days later I got word that Vuk had fallen and seriously hurt himself. He was going in and out, some good days, many more bad.

There is no doubt in my mind that my career would have been over ten or more years ago without John Vukovich. I often tried to but there was no way I could ever repay him for his commitment to me and the devotion and love he showed me throughout our 15+ years together. John Vukovich was the very person my dad was referring to when he called someone, “good people.” It was the highest compliment my dad could give. John was good people every day of his life, and the game and I will miss him greatly.

Shonda and I, our sons Gehrig, Grant, and Garrison, and daughter Gabriella want to extend our deepest sympathy and prayers to the Vukovich family, the Phillies family, and the family that is baseball.

Thanks for everything, and God bless, Vuk. Keep pushing.

Curt

72 Comments leave one →
  1. baseballprincess permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:23 am

    The most beautiful thing about those who have touched our lives the most is our ability… and responsibility… to carry on what they have taught us to touch the lives of others. This is a great example.

    I think perhaps the best thing about baseball for me has always been how it teaches us all, fans and players, how to thrive… not just survive. It is our escape, our passion and our teacher in the lesson of life. We learn how to be good people through a game too often considered a boy’s sport. Anyone who truly becomes a part of baseball in any way will soon learn that this boy’s sport is actually the best example for how to be a good man. A true hero in baseball is someone who lives a good life based on what he has learned and makes himself a part of teaching those lessons to others. Those heros are also sometimes overlooked.

    I’m glad John Vukovich is not being overlooked. He deserves to be remembered for the hero he was inside and the passion and motivation he shared.

  2. aimcifer permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:27 am

    May God grant John Vukovich’s family in this difficult time. May you and your family find peace as well.

  3. mattingly permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:27 am

    Curt –

    Sorry for your loss and my sympathies go to John Vukovich’s family. It was nice to hear how he touched your life as a father figure. I think you honor his impact on you by playing such an important role in the lives of your own children and in the life of a kid like Peter Despain. I was directed to his site from one of your other entries. It’s probably overhwhelming for someone in your position because there isn’t a 12-year little leaguer who wouldn’t want to talk to you, but Peter Despain seems to be exactly the type of kid worth reaching out to.

  4. getshorty permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:29 am

    Schill – life is prescious – live every moment so you have no regrets. Vuk sounds alot like my dad – a hero and a true role model! Todays blog so much better than just balls and stikes. Thanks for the insight he is someone we all would have liked to know! You were fortunate!
    LL Mitch

  5. bendorfman permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:30 am

    Very touching post. I’m sending it to my dad – lifelong Phillies fan. Condolences to not only the Vukovich family, but also to you and everyone else whose lives he touched. Keep up the posting – this is a great blog, and I love the insider’s perspective on Spring Training and baseball in general.

  6. usmarine permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:41 am

    I have Vukovich-like memories of someone who touched my life the way John touched yours. And while deeply saddened by his passing, I can only smile when I think of him these many years later. We are better men for having had them in our lives because people like that – people like John Vukovich – are gifts from God.

  7. March 9, 2007 4:45 am

    Curt, very sorry for your loss. The baseball world sends its best out to Vukovich family and friends.

  8. sect36rw9 permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:53 am

    Curt,

    Your passion for friends, family, and the game of baseball is what truly makes you a remarkable person. The game lost and great man, but the lives he touched and the players he groomed will carry on Vuk’s legacy on and off the field.

    Thanks for sharing your heartfelt story – and for showing what it truly means to be a Red Sox.

  9. sbm13 permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:55 am

    My sister also has an inoperable very malignant brain tumor. I am sorry for the loss of your friend Curt. It is one of the saddest things in the world and again no cure. I’ll include his family in my prayers. Keep on battling for him and for all the causes you fight.

  10. mark913 permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:55 am

    Curt,

    Huge fan of you and the Sox here in Upstate NY (Yankee country). First I am sorry to hear about your loss and wish you the best.

    Second, I want to say thanks for doing the blog. Not many players would do many of the things that you do. Not many people have the balls to speak their mind like you do, let alone ball players. Thanks again for the inside look into your world. It is greatly appreciated.

    I for one hope to see you retire as a member of the Nation.

    Mark Collett, YH supreme.

  11. bobsheppard permalink
    March 9, 2007 4:59 am

    Beautiful Eulogy.

  12. March 9, 2007 4:59 am

    Tough loss, sorry.

  13. tomafield permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:00 am

    Sorry for your loss, Curt.

    I lost my Mom to cancer two years ago this month — Good Friday 2005. I was at her side when she passed, holding her hand, tears streaming down my face, just begging her to let go. I’d watched her struggle for three years, and the last several months were brutal.

    It’s a horrible disease, cancer. And you’d know better than me, but I don’t think you ever quite get over that gaping hole where your children’s grandparent should be.

    Best to the Vukovich family.

    Thanks for sharing, Curt.

    - Tom

  14. blonde357 permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:05 am

    this is a touching memorial. i didn’t know mr. vukovich, but after reading this, i feel like i did.

    i appreciate this blog, both as a life long sox fan and as a fellow blogger. thank you for doing this. the insights into the game are interesting and useful in arguments against my rival teams’ supporters. i hear a lot of noise about you making too much noise. as far as i’m concerned, you are an american citizen and have as much a right to express your opinions publically as anyone else does, and i applaud you for doing so instead of hiding behind the “brotherhood” of your job.

    as for your baseball talents, i find you electrifying to watch, and i am proud to wear your number on my back, even to an “out of market” game. i’m behind you all the way, good start or bad.

  15. jeff7168 permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:19 am

    Curt, enjoyed your tribute to John Vukovich. I was not aware he was a father figure to you. As a writer, I have found that writing tributes to loved ones who are lost is therapeutic. It doesn’t erase the sorrow, but it helps to better cope. I wish you well, and my thoughts and prayers are with the Vukovich family. Thanks for the touching and intriguing tribute.

    Jeff
    http://www.soxandpinstripes.com

  16. fitz0527 permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:34 am

    Sorry to hear that.

  17. casejonz permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:36 am

    Curt,
    Thanks for sharing the John Vukovich stories. I remember Vuk from my baseball cards as a kid, but what the stats show on the back can never tell the real merit of the man. It is only through his peers and those who he influenced do we see the contributions of a wonderful person.
    Best of luck this season and rest in peace Vuk.

  18. ionizing permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:36 am

    I’m very sorry to hear your loss, he sounds like a wonderful man who greatly influenced you, and will surely be remembered. Your story made me smile.

  19. thatdudefromphilly permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:47 am

    Schill,
    As a Phillies fan, thanks so much for the kind words on Vuk. I am glad you wrote them for at least people who dont know Vuk, will know what he was about. We will all miss him. Just like Vuk and Tugger and others, to us, you will always be a Phillie!

  20. truckah permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:48 am

    thankyou, curt, for the insight. it’s funny that even as grown men we look to an elder for guidance. a childhood spent waiting for the “when i growups” to come to fruition, can be followed by an all-to-short period of great comraderie- stolen at it’s peak by cancer. effin cancer. thank God for the good people in our lives. we are most grateful he was in yours.

  21. rpando44 permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:53 am

    Curt:
    I really liked the John Vukovich story. The lessons you learned from Vuk about how to go about your profession, and even more, about how to conduct yourself as a human being resonate beyond baseball; it’s not a stretch to call this story inspirational. I’m a high school English teacher and I particularly like the lessons a young person can take from your stories about Vuk. I’m always looking for writing that my students can relate to, and I’ll refer them to this story. Nice tribute for your friend and mentor.
    –rpando44@yahoo.com

  22. March 9, 2007 5:55 am

    I was a huge Phillies fan as a kid, growing up 1.5 hrs from Vet Stadium. I remember Vuk from the ’80 Championship team (along with Tug and Bob Boon and Luzinski and Bake McBride and Gary Maddox and Bowa and Manny Trillo… I was a baseball chick even in Jr High!).

    God speed, John!

  23. March 9, 2007 5:55 am

    Very sorry to hear about the loss. My prayers and wishes go out to the Vukovich family and friends.

  24. March 9, 2007 5:58 am

    And Curt, I’m so sorry for this loss in your life.
    :(

  25. lydia69 permalink
    March 9, 2007 6:06 am

    That was a very moving tribute. Your words and stories made me feel like I knew him. From what you described I think he would have been touched that you shared your experiences with so many people.

    I too extend my deepest sympathies.

    -Diane.

  26. soxfan214538 permalink
    March 9, 2007 6:15 am

    Amazing. Bounds are meant to be broken. But this one, I doubt, will ever be. I doubt you need any more ambition for the season, but I’m sure he’ll be watching over you with every pitch. By the way, great outing today. God bless you.

  27. March 9, 2007 6:20 am

    Curt, I am sorry to hear about this loss. It is tough to take, I am sure. Vuk sounded like a good guy to know. RIP.

  28. thatdudefromphilly permalink
    March 9, 2007 6:20 am

    sect36: no offense, but I was thinking Curt was showing what showing what it is to be a friend, not a Phillie or a Sock(x?)

  29. surlabob permalink
    March 9, 2007 6:27 am

    Thanks for sharing, big fella. Sounds like a good guy, Vuk. And keep up the good blogging. I’m sure every Tom, Dick and Harry will be more than happy to give you their opinion on you, the Red Sox, baseball in general and who knows what else, but I for one think it takes a particular kind of moxie to give us civilians a look behind the curtain as it were and see inside this game we love. I appreciate your candor and honesty and wish you best of luck this year. And not to get too off track, but from what I can gather, you look to be maybe a year or two away from being a H.O.F lock. 250 W’s is the new 300. After Tommy Glavine, not much chance we’re going to see many guys hit the big three-oh-oh. After 2009, you’ll be looking at 250′ish W’s, well in excess of three thousand K’s. And the fact that you’re one of the best big game pitchers of this or any era and any reasonable person would have no choice but to hold open the doors to Cooperstown and hang your big bronze mug on the wall. And I’d never forgive posting my first comment here if I didn’t say, from the deepest well of my heart ‘Thank You’ for 2004. Putting your career in jeopardy with that injury and doing what you did out there… thanks for that, Curt. You make me glad to love baseball.

  30. March 9, 2007 6:51 am

    Not only does it sound like he was an amazing man, but it sounds like he was also an amazing friend. Your post was very thoughtful and seemed quite heartfelt. Thanks for sharing, letting us know what kind of person he was and what he meant to you. I am sorry for your loss, and, from what I can tell, the loss that all of his friends will feel.

    My sympathies.

  31. lissaann permalink
    March 9, 2007 7:18 am

    Deepest sympathies to you, your family and to the Vukovich family. He sounds like he was a very special person to a lot of people.

  32. soxoct27 permalink
    March 9, 2007 7:21 am

    thanks curt for that beautiful piece. he sounded like a man of tremendous character, and its apparent that it rubbed off on you. i cringe every time i hear the word cancer. to me its the dirtiest word i can imagine these days. i lost my future mother in law 6 months ago, like Vuk it was way to soon. it always makes you wonder why the good ones are taken so soon from us. i imagine the two were very similar both very courageous, determined, strong willed people. i know i learned many lessons from her as you did your dear friend. i am marrying her beautiful daughter in 3 short months and through this time it has been hard planning without her presence here, but then all you need to do is think of their smile and everything they taught you and some way you get through it. im sure you will too. my fiance is doing her third walk for breast cancer the week before we get married, a tremendous way to honor her mother and all those like Vuk and my mother in law Jo Ann who battled through the toughest of adversities. I dont know if this is appropriate, and its not i understand and im sure the moderators will delete this part of my message. but if anybody wants to help us battle cancer the way our brave friends before us have, here is a link to my fiances site.
    http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR?px=1567118&pg=personal&fr_id=1280

    if for some reason that doesn’t work, it can be found on http://www.avonwalk.com
    boston race 2007, participant last name majeran., thank you

    god bless Vuk, my thoughts and prayers with your family and mr schillings family!

  33. fenwayfever permalink
    March 9, 2007 7:59 am

    Curt,
    I am a Schilling disciple, following your career from Philly to Boston. I spent my childhood and teen years as a devoted Phillies fan. I ate, slept, and breathed every moment of 1993. I completely divorced myself from Philly when you came aboard with the Sox, converting myself to being one of RedSox Nation. 1993 was a dream season, coming in a close 2nd of course to 2004. Having been a Phillies fan so so long, though, I was always aware of the impact that Vuk had on the players, the organization, the city, the fans, and the game of baseball that you and I love so much. I always admired his intensity, his fire, his devotion, and his style of coaching. His “old-school” style is something that is missing too much these days in athletes and in the sport. He was what Phillies fans love so much, heart and soul about giving it your all. I am very thankful for the impact he had on you, making you the player that I have admired for all these years. Your words about him made me think of the men that have had such an impact and influence on my life growing up. My thoughts go out to you, your family, his family, the Phillies family, and the family of baseball. It has lost one of its own, a good man gone too soon. Good luck to you and the Sox this season. Take Dice-K and Lester under your wings and give them some of the guidance that Vuk gave you. And I’ll be there in Cooperstown along with the rest of the Nation when your time comes to join the Hall. You are by far deserving of that honor.

  34. seaair09 permalink
    March 8, 2007 10:16 pm

    Curt – I’m glad you had a man as meaningful as Vuk in your life. I’m sure you both felt lucky. Sorry for your loss.

  35. ctsoxfan permalink
    March 8, 2007 10:57 pm

    My condolences, Curt.

  36. dirtdawg permalink
    March 8, 2007 11:04 pm

    Great Tribute! We meet so many people in life, yet there are so few that touch us and we really connect with, but when we do, it can make such a difference in our lives, yet they would never know what a profound impact they had upon us nor would they want to be thanked, God Bless!

  37. March 8, 2007 11:15 pm

    Curt,

    My sympathies.

  38. rickschublues permalink
    March 8, 2007 11:55 pm

    Curt,

    I’m a Phillies fan who’s been rather ambivalent over how I feel about you since you forced your departure from the team. I felt it made you seem like a front-runner, especially when you expressed interest in coming back once the Phillies had become competitive again. I recognize that you’re a complex character, and that the good needs to be taken with the not-so-good. A lot has been said and written about you from both ends, and it’s hard to ignore either of them.

    But what you yourself have written about John Vukovich gives me reason to perhaps consider differently about you. Your sincere commentary and willingness to share it with the public without a media conduit is admirable. Tonight, the part of me that hopes you come back to Philadelphia is outweighing the part that has been more inclined to say, ‘who needs him’. I think the special thing about you is that you genuinely care. A lot of people can’t handle someone who puts it all out there. I think the sporting world ultimately could use more like you, who break down the great divide between themselves and the fans. Thanks for being real – and thanks, always, for the ’93 post-season.

  39. fivekatz permalink
    March 9, 2007 12:00 am

    Being about 12 years older than you Curt I remember Vuk a little more than perhaps some of the readers as the name rang a bell. I am sorry to admit his career specfics escaped me, only that he was a player of my youth and that in itself was a sobering and sad realization. Sad that such a young man passed before his time and sobering because mortality gained dimension once agin.

    His passing must be very tough for you, mentors are after all are people who hold very powerful places in our hearts. They give us wisdom and courage that helps us move forward with our careers and our families.

    If this is any condolence, when we mentor, we give a piece of ourselves to those we touch. In that regard, not just in your work and life but in the work and lives of the many people Vuk touched he lives on.

    I am sure he was as proud of you as any father could be (minus a few “Schill” mic moments… the post was getting serious so LOL)

    And I can only speculate, but considering how interesting it is just to follow your human journey as a outside observer, my guess is Vuk probably found it pretty cool too. And knowing you brought your mentor as much joy and fulfillment as he brought you may bring you some peace.

    Best wishes and prayers in your time of reflection.

  40. March 9, 2007 12:31 am

    Great piece man. Amazing blog you have going here…maybe you should quit this pitching business and go full-time on this thing.

    Or one last hurrah with the Phils?

  41. 77kevin permalink
    March 9, 2007 2:36 am

    As a lifelong, LONG-SUFFERING Astros fan, I often tell my friends who are Phillies, Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox (etc.) fans that they are lucky to have AT LEAST won ONE World Series title, however long ago (not so long ago now for the latter two). I am still waiting. BUT…I do appreciate our mutual loyalties and (of course) can’t stand the bandwagon-jumping Yankees, Marlins, Cardinals (I could go on here, but won’t) fans who don’t know what it’s like to be a TRUE fan.
    When I think of ‘Gamers’, I think in terms of Bagwell, Biggio, Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard, Mike Scott and the rest of the Astros over the years who have played the game the way it was meant to be played. I know next to nothing about Vuk, but was intrigued by the Jayson Starke article and surfed my way to Schilling’s site…WOW! This is the type of player/person/role model that baseball (and all of sports in general) has been sorely lacking for the last decade or so. I commend Curt Schilling, Jayson Starke and all the Phillies (and other teams) fans for writing such wonderful things about a man who clearly made a difference and ‘got it’. I will say prayers for Vuk’s family tonight and will have a place in my heart for him (and for Phillies fans, too) after reading all of these comments tonight. Rest in peace, Vuk: I can only hope that my two little boys will become men that really value those things in life that matter, as it seems that you did…honor, friendship, and the spirit of the game, which in so many ways mirrors life. God bless you.

  42. drewbies permalink
    March 9, 2007 3:47 am

    Keep working hard at it. Sooner or later you will get the split and change working.

    My son is a huge fan of yours and so am I. Please tell Pap good luck in the starting roll this yr for us. GL this yr and win it all for us one more time.

  43. kets33 permalink
    March 9, 2007 8:10 am

    Curt,

    Even though I am a lifelong Yankees fan, your comments on Vuk touched me..My thoughts are with you as you deal with the loss of such a close friend and mentor

  44. nalahim permalink
    March 9, 2007 8:16 am

    Curt,
    Your tribute to Vulk makes me wish I’d had someone like that in my life. His personality, character and integrity, as well as your heartfelt honesty and sincerity come through very clearly in your writing. This world needs more people like that and though he will surely be missed you leave no doubt that he will still be loved.
    thanx again,
    al

  45. winstongators permalink
    March 9, 2007 8:22 am

    “I often tried to but there was no way I could ever repay him for his commitment to me and the devotion and love he showed me throughout our 15+ years together.”

    I feel the same way about the people who have been special in my life, but have realized that there is a way to repay them. The commitment and devotion that the special people in my life showed me, I can show to others. Let Vuk’s spirit live in your actions.

  46. upintothenight permalink
    March 9, 2007 8:30 am

    First too the Vukovich family my deepest sympathy.
    Now too curt and the rest of the world I;m sorry for our loss.
    Curt the way you speak of vuk it made me feel that we all lossed a friend upon his passing wether we knew him personally or not He was good people he made this a good world!

  47. jimedriceinhof permalink
    March 9, 2007 8:46 am

    Sorry to hear about Mr. Vukovich. It’s guys like him and Pesky and others that help pass on the traditions and personality of baseball. While not everyone listens to their wisdom, the people that do are better for it.

    Love the hanging curveball story. The people that can jab you when you’re down and still get you to laugh are the special ones.

  48. xrayz permalink
    March 9, 2007 9:35 am

    Shill,
    You’ve brought a tear to my eye. Actually, several.
    I only met Vuk once, and he was one of the most genuine men I’d ever met.
    RIP, Vuk, you’ll be missed.

    Parke

  49. redsoxgrrl permalink
    March 9, 2007 9:43 am

    Very sorry for your loss, Curt. Very touching eulogy, conveyed your love and respect so well.

  50. demodoggie permalink
    March 9, 2007 9:46 am

    Many men pass through life stepping lightly, never leaving much of a mark and barely changing the landscape of the path they choose to cut . Great men leave behind a legacy, a distinct and unforgettable message within their footprints for us to follow and remember them by.

  51. medfield1 permalink
    March 9, 2007 10:41 am

    Sounds like a great guy. I found in my life some of the gruff, yell at you all the time coaches are the best. They yell at you because they care and see potential. Great advice…..jsut keep on pushing. Whether a MLB pitcher like you or a Thoroughbred bloodstock agent like me……putting your head down and moving forward is sometimes the only way

  52. dlyons permalink
    March 9, 2007 12:10 pm

    Curt,
    Sorry to hear, keep up the good work

  53. March 9, 2007 12:33 pm

    Wonderful tribute Curt! Casual fans don’t usually hear about the real people in Baseball or any other major sport, just what we read or see in the media. Thanks for introducing a wonderful person to us. You were lucky to have a person like him in your life.

    Side Note: I can’t believe how well you write. I’ll read this blog every time I can.

  54. callidus permalink
    March 9, 2007 1:33 pm

    All of my prayers and condolences for your loss, Curt. I know how difficult it is to lose a mentor. Reading how you describe your relationship with Vuk reminds me of my relationship with my grandfather who passed away last summer.

    I realize that the comments you get on here from fans who have never and will never meet you or know you can ring somewhat hollow in the echoes of cyberspace. But reading your eulogy of someone so obviously dear to you allows all of us to reflect on those similar individuals in our own lives. In that way your words about Vuk can touch us all.

    Again, all my prayers and condolences.

    Scott

  55. chinmuzik permalink
    March 9, 2007 1:41 pm

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward, I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there.

    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air.
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
    And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
    – John Gillespie Magee, jr.

  56. syrioforel permalink
    March 9, 2007 5:28 pm

    Well said Curt. My wife and I send our condolences. I have not experienced a loss such as this, and it was touching to read you thoughts on John’s life. As a Red Sox fan we are all truely thankful for the mark he left on you as a pitcher and a man.

  57. bsoxfan permalink
    March 9, 2007 8:48 pm

    Curt, Great blog! Sorry about your loss (VUK). Your Dad sounds very much like my old man. Lost him 9 years ago (Single Cell Melinoma), I feel your pain. Thanks for starting this thing, as a Sox Fan in So. Cal. It can be hard to relate to the team, you will make this much easier! Never miss a game thanks to a Sat. Dish and DVR. Can’t wait for the season to start, it’s not the same without Jerry and Don nightly on the tube. Good luck this season, and please don’t make it your last. As members of the Nation, we owe you a dept that can never be repaid!

    God bless!

  58. bigdaddykane permalink
    March 9, 2007 10:49 pm

    Sorry for the loss Curt.

    BDK

  59. somerandomfan permalink
    March 9, 2007 11:18 pm

    Curt,
    I wanted to send my condolences to you, your family, and everyone who cared about Vuk. I just lost my father to cancer last month, and I know how hard the disease is on people and the people that love them. As stereotypical as it sounds, it’s so important to remember the good times. Your recollections of someone who obviously meant so much to you were touching. With your beautiful tribute, you helped to remind me that no matter how sad a loss is, memories remain and they ensure that great people never really die. Thank you, and God bless you

  60. dkennedy permalink
    March 10, 2007 12:12 am

    Thanks Curt,

    I truly admire your honesty and your accessibility to your fans.I t’s unique.

    I hope you end up in Cooperstown with a big old B on your hat. Good luck this year and I look forward to voting for you in the future and I don’t have a HOF vote. :)

  61. jasondouglas86 permalink
    March 10, 2007 3:10 am

    Growing up in southeast PA in the 90′s made me a Phils fan. As coaches and players came and went, Vuk was a constant in the 3rd base box. It was all about hearing Harry or Andy Musser say “Vuk’s waving him home!” or “Vuk tosses a souvenir to a young fan”. My first game at the Vet, I sat down the 3rd base line close enough to hear Vuk encouraging the hitters. There was a bench clearing brawl led by Darren Daulton after Mariano Duncan got hit and then buzzed his next time up. If I had to guess I’d say that was in ’93. I’ll always remember Vuk’s interactions with the Phanatic and the way he stood up for his hitters, he was never afraid of getting tossed. I’m glad that Vuk, as you’ve presented him, was a man worthy of the pedestal I have always stood him on. I’m glad he meant as much to you personally as he did to all of Philadelphia professionally. I’m sure that he’s catching up with Tugger and Whitey, if you can do that sort of thing in Heaven. All my best to you and yours,
    J

  62. renegadext permalink
    March 10, 2007 11:53 am

    Curt –

    My deepest condolences to you and the Vukovich family. It’s always tough when you lose of your biggest fans.

  63. vuk4 permalink
    March 11, 2007 12:49 am

    Hi Curt…………On behalf of John’s cousins out here in California, I want to thank you so much for your “Rest in Peace, Vuk” Blog. My husband and I own a restaurant in Amador County where John was born and raised. His brothers, Rich and Bill are in here everyday. We have set up a memorial here in the restaurant which includes pictures, articles, his Phillies warm up Jacket and your Blog. I have made over 200 copies of your Blog in the past two days for all of his classmates and friends here in Amador County. In this time of excruciating pain and loss, I cannot tell you how many soulful smiles and laughs your story of …………”I said curveball. At no time did I say the word HANGING curveball.” brought to peoples hearts. Your Blog has really helped everybody to remember “Brother”, as we call him here in Amador County, as we remember and know him.

    Thank you for helping us to focus on the joy of his personality and character in the midst of the pain in losing him. He was our family and community hero and you have helped us all. His Brother Rich just left the restaurant and is in route to the airport to fly back to New Jersey. He had your blog in his hand as he left here crying after I played the “tribute to John Vukovich” for him on our computer.

    Thank you again Curt from all the Vukovich Cousins and friends out here in California!

    Maura Vukovich Gillman

  64. kris7738 permalink
    March 11, 2007 4:20 pm

    Dear Curt,

    I’m sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with you.

  65. slee12uconn permalink
    March 11, 2007 10:46 pm

    curt – sorry for your and baseball’s loss –
    not many people might fully understand what you mean when you said the need for an older male figure, unfortunately i do , but dont care to elaborate on a public blog – you were lucky to find someone – many of us dont find them –
    – one story that first comes to mind with you is , i remember watching the world series in 93- i was 13, you were unbelievable and i was watching with my dad, what ended ended up being the last world series we would watch together – they were doing a story on you and you mentioined that you always had a ticket in the stands that was reserved for your dad, i remember that all too vividly and from your performance in that postseason to your remarks, i was a big curt schilling fan – and was so excited that you came to boston – ive wanted to write you many times, but feared it would never reach your eyes, so i;ve torn them up –
    good luck for the 2007 season and beyond – - thanks for 2004, and all the other memories and in this day and age, reminding some of us fans that you’re a real person, with real life issues like the rest of us,

    and for some tough love- i think that if you strengthen your legs, you could pitch like you are now, well into your mid 40s- like roger clemens -

  66. March 12, 2007 7:06 pm

    Hey Curt, Vuk seemed like an amazing guy. Sox Nation is sorry for your loss. Me and you got this blog thing in common and I thought you may want to check it out, http://mdd2403.wordpress.com/, it’s all about Boston sports. I had to start one for my reporting for the web class and I figured I should blog about my passions, Boston Sports. Anyway my Professor gave us this assignment to tell someone we don’t know about our blogs, and I figured who better than you. Anyway if you got time just check it out and leave me a comment. You’re the man, and again sorry for your loss.
    Matthew DeBarros

  67. jrlexusman permalink
    March 12, 2007 9:40 pm

    Curt
    I am very sorry to hear about John Vukovich’s passing. That was an excellent story that you wrote about him and your relationship together. I had the pleasure of meeting Vuk numerous times. My Cousin, Ken Huebner, was Vuk’s roomate in A and AA ball. From time to time in the 1996-1998 season Vuk would leave field passes to get on the field at The Vet to watch batting practice and everything before the game started. and leave seats behind home plate for us. Him and my cousin were close friends in single and double A. As a matter a fact, if i am not mistaken my cousin went to Vuk’s wedding. The first time i met him he greeted me with ” how ya doing kid”. with a hand shake and i thanked him for the field passes and tickets he replied with my pleasure. I remember him talking to my cousin about how the game has changed from when they played to now. It was just a pleasure getting to meet him on more than one occasion. Just thought i would share my thoughts.
    Jim

  68. lakefred permalink
    March 14, 2007 10:38 am

    Curt, I’m so sad about Vuk’s passing. After reading your eulogy, I feel an even greater loss for you. I was born and raised a Phillies fan. I’m still a Phillies fan. I have a good friend in Worcester, Mass and we’ve attended games in Fenway Park since the mid 70′s, so I’ve adopted the Red Sox as my American League rooting interest. When you came to Philly, I became a Curt Schilling fan. When you left Philly, I remained a Curt Schilling fan. I was so happy for you in your success with Arizona and now with the Red Sox. Your writing has touched my heart. I’ll remember Vuk and his family and you in your family in my prayers. Thank you for writing this.
    Lake Fred

  69. jeffmickbake permalink
    March 23, 2007 7:00 pm

    Curt, I’m a long time Phils fan and had the opportunite to met John Vukovich . I was truly saddened to hear of the pain and suffering that this wonderful man and dedicated coach and friend had to endure. Your piece was well recieved and as a Phillies legend yourself , one can only imagine how this affected you and yours. I will always remember Vuk as one of the mainstays of a ball club I have rooted for for 47 years. He was always their. I guess that was what he was like as a friend, always there. God Bless you and your family, Curt and how ’bout comin’ back ?

  70. mattlenny permalink
    December 18, 2007 2:45 pm

    Curt,

    Thanks for sharing. This past week I lost someone that when you describe Vuk, you are describing my friend, Tom. I am a teacher and coach and Tom was retired from both. But 4 years ago he came back to be a tutor in my school. He always had great stories, but all of them had positive meanings. Sometimes you didn’t even realize it until you were alone later on. Like you dad would say, “Tom is good people.”

    I am truly sorry for your loss.

  71. carol sullivan permalink
    April 6, 2009 6:28 pm

    hi curt iknow so well the lose you feel with john gone i was his sister=in=law not really he was my brother i loved him deerly as well as my 3 kids who loved him and he loved he is such a special peron and such a great husband and father i feel he is still with me he is by far the nicest and best person i have meet in my life my prayers are with bonnie my sister who was his wife and also with his 2 children nicki and vincent he was the dream dad and wife they always came first it was bonnie, nicki, vincent and baseball and i might add his does a pair of levi.s well i always told him he wore levi’s better than anyone i love him and he had such an impact on our family’s life he was the perfect and loving man carol sullivan

  72. Marc Butz permalink
    August 27, 2009 1:01 pm

    I remember Vukovich in 1973, when he was with the Brewers. I remember that he played 3rd base. The Brewers also had Don Money at 3rd, where Money set a defensive record in ’74. Anyway, I was at this benefit basketball game in the Milwaukee area in early 1975, and John Vukovich was on the roster of local celebs. The roster indicated that he was on the Cincinnati Reds, which I hadn’t known. Earlier that year, a friend, with whom I attended the basketball game, told me that Vukovich is the best defensive thirdbaseman in the league. I believed him because he was three years older than I. At the game, I saw my friend talking to a lady, who was John Vukovich’s mother. John didn’t make that game, but I was always to think of him as the best defensive thirdbaseman…by the way, when he went to Cincinnati, the Reds put Pete Rose at third. It took some very good players to keep Vukovich out of his team’s starting lineup.

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