Art Mahan, the oldest living Phillie and a longtime Villanova coach and athletic director, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his daughter's Rydal home. He was 97.
Mr. Mahan, a lefthanded-hitting first baseman from Somerville, Mass., played 146 games as a first baseman for the 1940 Phillies, batting .244.
"The Phillies send our heartfelt condolences to the Mahan family," David Montgomery, the Phillies' president, said in a statement. "As the oldest living Phillie, Art's passing is a loss to our family as well. We mourn his death, along with all who knew him."
A resident of Northeast Philadelphia for most of his adult life, Mr. Mahan graduated from Villanova in 1936 and played minor-league ball until the Phillies called him up in 1940. Both player and team struggled. Managed by Doc Prothro, the 50-103 Phils finished last, an astounding 50 games behind first-place Cincinnati.
"The Augustinian priests kept telling me to have faith in the saints and to ask St. Jude for help when I would step up to bat," he told the Catholic Standard & Times earlier this year. "After trying this, it was quickly obvious that St. Jude couldn't hit a curveball, either."
Mr. Mahan was a naval officer during World War II.
"He trained the new recruits at the Quonset Point [R.I.] station and also coached and instructed in physical education there," said his son, Ed, an Eagles photographer.
He returned to Villanova as its baseball coach in 1950 and 11 years later became the school's athletic director. Between 1961 and 1973, he performed both duties.
His baseball teams complied a 236-169-5 record and advanced to four NCAA tournaments.
In 1973, with the business of college sports becoming more complex, Mr. Mahan stepped down as coach and, in a reorganized department, became vice president for athletics. He retired in 1978.
During his tenure as an administrator, Villanova's track team, coached by Jumbo Elliott, was one of the nation's best, turning out numerous Olympians, including gold medalists Paul Drayton and Larry James. The men's basketball team, led by Jack Kraft and later Rollie Massimino, was also extremely successful, reaching the NCAA championship game in 1971.
The only surviving major- leaguers who were older than Mr. Mahan are Tony Malinosky (101), Connie Marrero (99), and Ace Parker (98), all of whom, like Mr. Mahan, had relatively brief careers.
Mr. Mahan's wife of 54 years, Helen, died in 1996. In addition to Ed, he is survived by sons Arthur Jr., Gregory, and Christopher, and daughters Maureen (Schaeffer), Gail, Jane (Watson), Lois, and Julia (DiFerdinando). He was predeceased by two sons, Joseph and Paul.
A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday at St. Hilary's Roman Catholic Church in Rydal. The viewing will begin at 9 a.m., with a Mass at 11.