Walter J. "Bud" Ryan thought all young boys and girls should get to play baseball if they wanted to, regardless of their skills. So in spring 1977, he volunteered to coach a team for his son, "Buddy," then 8, in Roxborough.
Buddy grew up. Time moved on. But Mr. Ryan stayed with that team year after year, coaching two of his daughters and hundreds of other kids from the neighborhood.
This would have been his 38th consecutive season coaching with 21st Ward Junior League Baseball.
Mr. Ryan, 74, died Wednesday, March 4, at Roxborough Memorial Hospital of heart failure after a short illness, his wife, Roseann, said Saturday.
"He thrived on it. He enjoyed it. The children were learning how to play," she said of the decades Mr. Ryan coached every spring even as his own children grew to adults.
The score wasn't the most important thing, she said. The question was, "Did you have fun?" Roseann Ryan said.
Mr. Ryan also organized a youth basketball league run out of Shawmont Elementary School in Roxborough for more than 30 years, said Michael Flood, who assisted him.
Flood estimated 10,000 children participated in the league over the years. "He was a fixture. He was there every night," Flood said, adding that Mr. Ryan insisted the children play "equal time" during games.
Mr. Ryan was raised in the city's Fairmount section and attended parochial schools. At 19, he went to work in the mailroom for Smith Kline & French, the Philadelphia pharmaceutical company.
He met his future wife when he went to visit his brother, Christopher, at the Karamac resort in the Poconos. She had been raised in Northeast Philadelphia and worked in the summer as a "pillow puncher," or chamber maid, at the resort. Christopher Ryan, who was bartending at the Karamac, introduced them.
They married in 1967 and lived in a Roxborough apartment. In quick succession, they had Walter "Buddy" Jr., in 1968, Suzanne in 1969, Maureen in 1971, and Theresa in 1973. Maureen and Theresa played on one of Mr. Ryan's youth baseball teams.
In late 1988, Mr. Ryan retired from the pharmaceutical company after a career in records management and embarked on a second career selling real estate with his brother in Fairmount. He retired a second time in late 2013.
Though he emphasized sportsmanship and having fun with the boys and girls, Mr. Ryan was very competitive himself, Walter Ryan Jr. said. He played softball, and, during his years at the pharmaceutical company, bowled in a company league.
In addition to his wife and children, Mr. Ryan is survived by eight grandchildren and his brother.
A viewing was scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, March 8, and 9:30 a.m. Monday, March 9, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 819 Cathedral Rd., Philadelphia, followed by a Funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Monday at the church. Interment will be in Hillside Cemetery. Arrangements were by the Koller Funeral Home.
Donations in Mr. Ryan's memory may be made to Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, 2570 Boulevard of the Generals, Suite 124, Norristown, Pa. 19403.