Mike Ryan, a longtime player and coach in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, passed away last week at 78 years of age.
Michael James Ryan was born on Nov. 25, 1941, in Haverhill, Mass. Originally signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1960, he made his major league debut with the team in 1964 and was traded to the Phillies in December 1967.
Nicknamed “Irish”, Ryan spent 16 years as a bullpen coach with the Phillies (1980–95), winning a World Series in 1980 and the National League pennant in 1983 and 1993. He is the only person in Phillies history to coach in three World Series and remains the second-longest tenured coach in franchise history, behind former teammate, the late John Vukovich (17 years, 1988–2004).
“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.”
On Opening Day in 1971, Ryan caught the ceremonial first ball, which was dropped by a helicopter high above Veterans Stadium. It was the first in a tradition of Opening Day “First Ball Acts” at the Vet. Ryan repeated the act in 1981 and 1995 and a modified version in 1991.
Ryan enjoyed an 11-year major league career as a catcher, playing for the Red Sox (1964–67), Phillies (1968–73) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1974). Defensively, he posted a .991 fielding percentage in 632 career games (570 starts) behind the dish, committing just 34 errors in 3,832 total chances. He tied for the major league lead in assists by a catcher (79) in 1969, outpacing future Hall of Famer Johnny Bench (76) despite playing in 15 fewer games that year.
Ryan appeared in one postseason game during his career, going 0-for-2 as a reserve with the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the 1967 World Series in St. Louis.
In six seasons with the Phillies, he batted .190 with 41 doubles, six triples, 21 home runs and 91 RBI in 392 games. In 1969, he set career highs in many categories, including games (133), home runs (12) and RBI (44).
On May 2, 1970, Ryan was involved in a very memorable game at Candlestick Park. The Phillies’ starting catcher, Tim McCarver, broke a finger on a foul tip off the bat of future Hall of Famer Willie Mays. Ryan replaced McCarver in the game and, two batters later, also sustained a broken finger on a slide at home plate from another future Hall of Famer, Willie McCovey. Ryan finished the inning but was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
Ryan is survived by his wife, Suzanne.