Every now and than, and ever so rarely, wonderful men grace a sports town in a fashion so moving that all whom they touch change, forever. Way back in 1966, with a 10th pick, the Phillies drafted a third baseman who, though he never developed into a top flight player, made a lasting impact on both the organization and its fans. John Vukovich ended his playing career as what might be defined as a light hitting, slick fielding third baseman. Backing up Mike Schmidt in the 1980 championship season, Vukovich left baseball and began a career as a coach for the organization that drafted him. And that, my friends, is where the relationship between the man we call Vuk and the fans began. A main stay behind third base, Vukovich spent 31 of his 45 years in baseball here in Philadelphia, most of them as a coach. John Christopher Vukovich was born in Sacramento, California on July 31st, 1947. He met his wife Bonnie at Veterans Stadium and relocated to the city he would never leave. During his second tour of duty with the Phillies, fans began to notice the hard-working, tough-nosed, blue-collar player that never said quit; in Philadelphia, a fan's player. After his playing career ended, he joined the Chicago Cubs as a coach, and in 1986 he was named manager for a day after Jim Frey was fired. He split that day's doubleheader. In 1987 he rejoined the Phillies, and after Lee Elia was fired with nine games to go, he took over as skipper, going 5-4 the rest of the season. From all reports, to know John Vukovich was to know a man of dignity and class. He was hard nosed, always pushing forward. Loyal, possibly to a fault, he survived five Philadelphia managers. Players talked openly about the respect that they had for the man that coached longer than anyone else in Philadelphia history. Anyone who knows us, knows that fans in Philadelphia don't please easy. When we invest ourselves in something, we give 100%, and we expect that in return. Vuk gave back. He set the tone for that relationship. We know that. John Vukovich not only met those expectations, he pushed us past who we were. We saw that. He was the defining measure in this town for the push toward perfection in a workmanlike fashion that never said quit. He gave of himself to the point that most men would become exhausted. Then he gave more. With Vuk, we learned by example. We don't say this often here. But in the truest sense of the word, John Vukovich was family. As Chris Wheeler said "He was a Californian who married a Philly girl and never left. He loved Philadelphia because he kept saying these people are tough. He loved the area for that reason." We know that Phillies fans can be tough. Everything we hear about Vuk tells us that he was too. In Curt Schilling's blog he says that John Vukovich would continually say to him, "I'm going to beat this thing." We hear that he never gave up. The 2007 Phillies are honoring him by wearing a uniform patch with his nickname, "Vuk", and his number 18. On Friday, August 10th, 2007, the Phillies added Vuk to the Phillies Wall of Fame Maybe some day, they will retire number 18. He is very certainly worthy of both honors. So in the end, the relationship between John Vukovich and the fans at Philadelphia was indeed the proverbial marriage made in heaven; tough, honest, demanding, never quit, always 100%, and loyal. People don't always understand people like John Vukovich and very few outside of our own baseball family can understand the fans in Philadelphia, but if you want to know who Phillies fans are, just take a look at the life of John Vukovich. That's who we are. Phillies Fan Central Faust Ruggiero Find John Vukovich's career statistics - Courtesy Baseball Find John Vukovich's managerial record - Courtesy Baseball