Tuesday, April 11, 2017

RIP Coach Amaro

This post is incredibly late - darn near two weeks past due, at this point - but, better late than never, right?

On March 31, longtime Big League player, scout, coach and minor league skipper Ruben Amaro, Sr. passed away at the age of 81.  The former Gold Glove shortstop for the Cardinals, Phillies, Yankees, and Angels was your prototypical all glove, no bat middle infielder throughout the 1960's, with a career batting average of .234 and OPS of .545.  Nevertheless, he was so reliable up the middle that he even earned some down-ballot MVP votes in 1964.

His teammates were quite fond of him as well,  as Yankee teammate Jim Bouton mentioned in  Ball Four.  “He’s the kind of guy, well, there’s a dignity to him and everyone likes and respects him.”

 Ruben with the Phillies on his 1962 Topps card

 Although Ruben may be best remembered for his days as a regular in the "City of Brotherly Love" lineup or for his injury-plagued stint in the "City that Never Sleeps," Ruben also has a very strong connection to the "Windy City's" Northside nine, as well.  In fact, the senior Amaro was a member of the coaching staff for one of Wrigley's most beloved squads.

After injuries effectively ended his playing career after the 1969 season, Ruben Amaro turned to coaching in order to extend his tenure in professional baseball.  All in all, I think we safely say that Ruben proved his worth, as the baseball lifer spent over 50 years in dugouts and diamonds across the country and across the world (he was elected to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986) before he was through.

Initially moving to the front office with the Phillies, in 1972, Amaro became a Phillies assistant to Dallas Green, who was then the team’s director of minor leagues and scouting. Ruben and his former teammate eventually helped to lead the Phightin' Phils to their first World Series title in 1980, with Green as the field manager and Amaro as the Latin America Coordinator.  Shortly thereafter, when Green moved to the Second City to try and break another championship drought, Amaro followed his colleague to Chicago, joining the on-field coaching staff in 1983.

Anyone have an extra copy of this 7-11 sponsored team issue?

While we Chicago baseball fanatics may wax poetic about such luminaries as Sandberg, Sutcliffe, Smith, and Eckersley, the men behind the scenes were just as important to that team's surprising success.  Working as the third base coach and infielder tutor, Amaro and the 1984 NL East Division Champions came oh-so-close to slaying that Billy Goat.  As it was, Ruben used that success as a springboard into managerial aspirations, first with the Detroit Tigers organization, then the Petroleros de Minatitl√°n of the Mexican League, before returning to helm the Williamsport and Rockford Cubbies from 1996-98.

Sadly, despite his baseball acumen, Ruben Amaro never got the call to lead a Major League ballclub; although, he received an interview as late as the year 2000.  “I was not only Latin, but my family was also a bit dark,” Amaro said in 2011. “My time came too early.”  He eventually returned to the Philly organization to work under his son and the franchise's GM, Ruben Amaro, Jr., in various capacities.  It was the Phillies who owned Ruben's heart, though he did hold a special fondness for a certain other MLB city:

“I never wanted to leave the Phillies – never,” Amaro once stated. “The times I left, they were the biggest boo-boos of my life. Not so much the first time, though, because I joined Dallas Green with the Cubs and he built something, which I don’t think he gets enough credit for.”

 Amaro and Green share an embrace in the midst of their World Series celebration.
 Image courtesy of The Desert Sun.

Clearly, he held a special place in his heart for the Cubs and a healthy respect for the General Manager that lead the "Lovable Losers" out of the doldrums and into Chicago's hearts.  In an odd twist of fate, Ruben lost his battle with cancer just over a week after his longtime compatriot Dallas Green passed away due to kidney failure and pneumonia.  These long-time, well-respected baseball lifers will forever be linked in life and in death.

 In addition to his son, Ruben Jr., Amaro Sr. is survived by his wife, Lilia, four other children and seven grandchildren.  While most might remember Ruben Amaro, Sr. as a Philadelphia Phillie, to me and the coaches section of my CATRC, he'll always be an affable coach for Dallas Green's Chicago Cubs. 

RIP Ruben- sorry it took so long for me to properly acknowledge you.

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