Photo of Phil Roof


Hard as it is for him to believe sometimes, he's been a baseball man over four decades now.

Yet, for a guy going on 60, he feels great, especially after having his left knee replaced in 1997.

Photo of Phil Roof by Day in Photos
He's doing great, too, 25 years as a major league player and coach rewarding him with a handsome pension. "The retirement I've got coming in is absolutely fabulous," PHIL ROOF reports. The SALT LAKE BUZZ manager could say thanks, adieu, and head home to Kentucky for good. Be a country gentleman. The DUKE of PADUCAH. Or, BARON of BOAZ, that's where he lives now, 16 km from his hometown of Paducah. If he heeds friends, however, it probably won't happen. "(former SALT LAKE JAZZ Coach and GM) FRANK LAYDEN is someone I respect," says ROOF. "He keeps telling me, 'don't retire, it's no fun. You've got a club, good situation.'"

So, if the MINNESOTA TWINS want him to, ROOF would likely return for a seventh season at the helm of the BUZZ. And why wouldn't they ? While the TWINS struggle, their TRIPLE A club, under ROOF's quiet, understanding guidance, has made the playoffs three times in five years, not easy to do in the PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE.Barring a gargantuan collapse, they're headed for them again this year.

"I've enjoyed these six years in Salt Lake, probably as much as I enjoyed playing in the big leagues," he declares. ROOF hasn't done badly for a poor, Kentucky farm boy. One of 10 children - five played pro ball - he was what they called in the pre-draft era a 'bonus baby', signing with the MILWAUKEE BRAVES in 1959 for a staggering $ 35,000. "I didn't want to stay on the farm," he remembers. "And, I saw my parents struggle, trying to raise 10 kids and make a living. I thought maybe I could help ease the burden." He ended up catching in the majors for most of 17 years, until 1977, when he was an original member of the TORONTO BLUE JAYS. "I came along at a time when there was a shortage of defensive catchers," he states. Even then, he says, "I spent two years in the big leagues and didn't know if I could play there. Then ALVIN DARK gave me a chance in KANSAS CITY."

He became teammates with eight Hall of Famers: HANK AARON, EDDIE MATHEWS, WARREN SPAHN while in Milwaukee; REGGIE JACKSON, JIM 'CATFISH' HUNTER, ROLLIE FINGERS with the A's; HARMON KILLEBREW and ROD CAREW with Minnesota. "And, I think BERT BLYLEVEN and JIM KAAT should be," states ROOF, who toiled for eight big-league clubs. Best pitchers he ever caught ? "For stuff, SAM McDOWELL. For Control, HUNTER and KAAT," he replies. Toughest out ? "KILLEBREW, in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings." ROOF had promised his four daughters he'd get out of baseball when he was done playing, and after coaching at SAN DIEGO in 1978 he did, running a cattle feed operation. But he returned to the game in 1982, and since 1983 he's either managed in TRIPLE A or coached in the majors. ROOF's gone through a lot - especially with his knee. Ravaged by decades of catching, he was left horribly bow-legged. Told in 1991 he needed a replacement, he put it off until 1997. He still laughs at pal CHUCK COTTIER failing to recognize him from across a field, because the surgery had straightened his leg ! Maybe he can fool him again with a ring. About the only thing he hasn't done is win a championship, anywhere.


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