Mike Ryan, the longtime Phillies catcher and bullpen coach affectionately known as “Irish”, died Friday. He was 78.
The Phillies did not release the cause of death.
Mr. Ryan was the Phillies’ bullpen coach from 1980 to 1995, joining the team just before their first World Championship season and staying aboard for two more trips to the World Series in 1983 and 1993.
He is the only Phillies coach to be in three World Series and is the second-longest coach in franchise history, trailing John Vukovich’s 17 years.
“Mike Ryan is one of the more underrated people in Phillies history,” said Phillies chairman emeritus Bill Giles. “His tenure was marked by three World Series appearances and he was a very popular presence in our clubhouse for many years. 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. 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.”
Mr. Ryan played six of his 11 major-league seasons with the Phillies. He also caught for the Red Sox and Pirates.
On May 2, 1970, Mr. Ryan replaced starting catcher Tim McCarver after McCarver broke his finger on a foul tip by Willie Mays. Two batters later, Ryan broke his finger on a slide at home plate by Willie McCovey. Ryan finished the inning but was lifted for a pinch-hitter as the Phillies lost both catchers in the same inning to broken fingers by future Hall of Famers.
“It’s the first time in my career that I’ll go into July hitting .300,” quipped Ryan after being put on the disabled list with a .333 batting average in six at-bats.
A year later, Mr. Ryan caught the “first ball” at Veterans Stadium by securing the ball dropped from a helicopter before the first game at the team’s new park. He repeated the act in 1981, 1991, and 1995.
“I have trouble even thinking about this,” Ryan said before his 1981 catch. “I decided there’s only three things that can happen: I can drop it and get booed out of Philly, I can catch it, or I can get killed.”