Denis Menke, a three-time All Star and the hitting coach for the 1993 National League champion Phillies, died earlier this month. He was 80.
Mr. Menke, who died on Dec. 1, played 13 major-league seasons for the Braves, Astros, and Reds before becoming a coach. He started all seven games of the 1972 World Series as Cincinnati’s third baseman as the Big Red Machine fell to Oakland. Mr. Menke was an All Star in 1969 and 1970 with Houston, hitting a career-high .304 in 1970 for the Astros. He retired in 1974 with a .250 career batting average and 1,270 hits.
Mr. Menke was the Phillies hitting coach from 1989 to 1996 and was lauded for having an individual approach. He wore No. 4 until midway through his first season when the Phillies acquired Lenny Dykstra, who would take Mr. Menke’s number and become one of the catalysts for the offensive juggernaut Mr. Menke presided over in 1993.
The 1993 Phillies led the National League in hits, runs, doubles, RBIs, walks, extra-base, total bases, on-base percentage, and OPS. Four players drove in 85 or more runs, four players hit 18 or more homers, and eight players had 100 or more hits as the Phillies returned to the World Series for the first time in 10 years.
Mr. Menke is the third member of the 1993 team to die this year. Bullpen coach “Irish” Mike Ryan died in July and infielder Kim Batiste died in October. Larry Bowa, who coached third base, is the only living member of the team’s seven-member coaching staff.
Mr. Menke coached with the Blue Jays and Astros before joining the Phillies. He returned to Cincinnati, where he played two seasons, and was the Reds’ bench coach from 1997 to 2000. Mr. Menke retired in 2000, 41 years after he signed with the Milwaukee Braves for $125,000 as a 17-year-old in 1959.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life. Baseball has been really good to me,” Menke told MLB.com in 2014. “Things happen. You’re surprised by things, but then you realize that life has to go on. That’s kind of the way I look at it. I still enjoy life.”
“I wouldn’t have changed anything. Grew up on a farm, entered baseball when I was 17 years old, and 40 years later I decided it was finally time to get out. I really did get out on my own terms. After the 2000 season in Cincinnati, I knew it was time to get out. It was a little harder for me to be around some of the high-priced players and the so-called superstars. And I decided it was time to get out. The scout who signed me said if you ever get tired to the point you’re not enjoying the game, it’s time to get out. And that’s what I did.”