What a brutal year it’s been for Phillies alumni. Already this month, former MVP Dick Allen and former hitting coaches Denis Menke and Billy DeMars have died.
DeMars was on the Phillies’ coaching staff from 1969-81 and was the hitting coach for the Phillies’ first World Series team in 1980. At 95 years old, he had been the oldest living former Phillie.
“This is one of my toughest days yet,” Larry Bowa wrote on Twitter. “We lost another Phillies family member, Billy DeMars. Besides my dad, he was the most influential coach in my baseball career. Without Billy’s help, I don’t think I would have made it to the big leagues. Rest easy my friend.”
Two days earlier, the news came that Menke had died. He was the Phillies’ hitting coach from 1989-96, which included the ‘93 group that went to the World Series.
The hitting coaches for two of the most storied teams in Phillies history gone within a few days.
In July, the Phillies lost longtime infielder and fan-favorite Tony Taylor at age 84, former player and coach Mike Ryan at 78, and scouting legend Bart Braun at 64. Kim Batiste, a ‘93 Phillie, died in October. A few days later, Hall of Famer and former Phillie Joe Morgan died. Bob Miller, who pitched 10 seasons with the Phillies and was in the rotation of the 1950 Whiz Kids, died two weeks ago.
The game has said goodbye this year to so many crucial figures in its history: Morgan, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Al Kaline, Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Allen.
Allen had his No. 15 retired by the Phillies in September. It was hard to overlook the cruel timing of his passing, which came the week he was initially scheduled to learn whether he’d finally been elected to the Hall of Fame by baseball’s Golden Days Committee. That vote was pushed back to next year because of the pandemic.