My dad was a mountain of a man -- not in stature, but in character. I often hear people say that "the way you measure a man, is how he raises his children." I've always loved that because I always felt fortunate enough to know my dad raised me right. However, I would like to expand it a little further by including my mother. "The way you measure a man is how he raises his children and loves his wife." I like that better. If this is the case, we really need a big scale. Maybe one of those truck weigh station scales on the highway would suffice.
I am writing this strictly as his son and "best buddy." Wow, I sure am going to miss him calling me that. Baseball and the Phillies were my dad's life, but not before his family. I can honestly say that I don't believe anyone loved his family more than John Christopher Vukovich. He was as selfless as anyone I have ever met. He didn't even want to accept gifts from me because he was happier knowing there would be more money in my pocket. Though he was as generous as anyone I have ever met -- not just with his family, but with strangers, too. This is probably why he made more connections in the Philadelphia area than anyone.
I will always remember my dad for the impact he had on me and our family. Whether it was his famous "keep pushing" when I felt like giving up, or a good chewing out when I deserved it, or a hug when I was upset, or a good BP pitcher (hitch included) after an 0-4, or the good advice when I was at a crossroads or a lesson on how to be a man when I wasn't acting like one.
He taught me an invaluable lesson of how to treat and respect women. I learned that by watching how he treated my mother. He put her higher than anyone, and could even be heard calling her "his queen." He used to say, "I hope you're lucky enough to find a woman like this someday." It makes me happy to know that he recently believed I had finally found that. Whenever I needed my dad and "best buddy" he was there. My "best buddy" will now forever be with me.
I hope to see my father on the "Wall of Fame" at Citizens Bank Park this summer. I may be partial, but I think he deserves it. I know something like this would make him so proud, not for himself but for his children and grandchildren. It would be a really neat thing to someday take my kids to a Phillies game and introduce them to their grandfather.
I am glad that I got to tell him, when he wasn't feeling adequate, that if I am half as good of a father and husband as he was, I'd have done my job. I will honor my dad every day for the rest of my life. He will be my guardian angel sitting on my shoulder.
Dad didn't go out without a fight. He fought with such courage and dignity. I will never forget that.
Go rest in peace, "best buddy," and let your mom and dad take care of you like you took care of us. I can't wait to see you again, dad. We'll just sit at the blackjack table and catch up ... and the dealer with be throwing out 21s.
I'll miss you and I want you to know that I'll take it from here. You were a perfect role model for me. If I emulate you, I'll be just fine. I love you dad!
Your best buddy in the world,
Vince Vukovich is the 26-year-old son of former Phillies coach John Vukovich, who passed away on March 8. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.