Tuesday, October 18, 2011

#16 George Vukovich - Philadelphia Phillies

Card: This is Vukovich's third Topps card. He had two before and would have three more after it.

Picture: Vukovich is following through with his left handed swing. A couple things I notice: 1) He has a mustache in the action shot but not in the inset. 2) His name on the back has a G in front of Vukovich.  Teammate John Vukovich was not on the '82 team so the picture may have been taken in 1981 or 1980.

Player: George Vukovich was drafted in the fourth round out of Southern Illinois University by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1977.  Vukovich played well in his first two years in the minors batting .311 in Single-A in 1978 and .293 in Double-A in '79. 
Vukovich made the Phillies out of spring training in 1980.  Despite being on the Phillies roster all year he started only two games as manager Dallas Green used him as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement.  He played in 78 games and batted .224 in 58 at bats.  Vukovich went 0 for 3 in the NLCS and did not play in the World Series as the Phillies defeated the Royals.
In 1981 Vukovich started the year at AAA and was called up twice during the season, but once again played sparingly.  The left handed Vukovich managed to go 10 for 26 for a nifty .385 batting average despite being deployed in the same manner as the year before.  With the strike shortening the season, the Phillies faced the Expos in the divisional series. With the Phillies down two games to on, Vukovich hit a game winning homer off Jeff Reardon in the 10th inning to tie the series.  Although Expos won game five, his game winner bomb was the highlight of Vukovich's young career. 
Vukovich won a semi-regular job in 1982 platooning in right field. He batted .272 with six home runs and 42 RBI in 335 at bats.
After the season Vukovich was involved in the blockbuster trade that saw Von Hayes go from Cleveland to Philadelphia.  In addition to Vukovich, the Indians received Julio Franco, Manny Trillo, Gerry Willard, and Jay Baller.  In '83 Vukovich was once again platooning through the first few months of the season but finished the year as the every day right fielder despite batting .247 with little power.
In 1984 Vukovich won the RF gig for the Indians and had his finest season batting .304 in 437 at bats.  George made his biggest mark while playing defense ranking first in the AL in both fielding percentage (.988) and range factor (2.49) for all rightfielders.  With his strong arm, Vukovich also gunned down 13 runners from the outfield which ranked fourth in the AL.
Although he was still playing fine defense Vukovich's performance waned in '85, batting .244 with eight homers in 434 at bats. 
Vukovich played the next two seasons for the Seibu Lions of the Pacific League in Japan, winning the league championship both years.
Returning stateside in '88, Vukovich played at AAA Toledo, batting .224 in 89 games for the Mud Hens. At 32 years of age Vukovich was done with baseball.

Flipside: As you can see, Vukovich didn't hit for much power.  As he got older and his average dropped, his defense wasn't enough to keep him around.

Oddball: There have only been two players in the history of MLB with the surname Vukovich- George and John. Although unrelated they played together on the 1980-81 Phillies.

History: Vukovich won a World Series in 1980 but his game winning homer in the NLDS is his defining moment.
Vukovich now lives in Arizona, teaching baseball at Triple Play in Sahuarita. 


  1. He's living in Green Valley, AZ

  2. Thanks for the info, I've updated the post.