Phil Itzoe, who spent 41 of his 45 seasons with the Orioles coordinating the team's travel plans, the longest tenure of any traveling secretary in the four major sports leagues, died Wednesday after an extended illness. He was 72.
"I used to always call him 'Fabulous Phil,' " Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said. "Phil did everything, and he was there for all the good times, all our championships. You know how difficult a job that is? You don't get paid the amount of money the managers do, but he had to deal with all the players, and he did it with class, with a sense of humor and with kindness. You don't find too many guys like Phil. When you lose somebody like that, it's just another horrible day."
Itzoe joined the organization in 1964 as an assistant to the public relations director. He took over traveling secretary duties in 1968 and held them through the 2008 season. In 2008, Itzoe was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Herb Armstrong Award for non-uniformed personnel who made significant contributions to the organization.
A native of York, Pa., Itzoe was also honored in 1990 with the first Donald Davidson Memorial Award, given to the top traveling secretary in the major leagues.
"I've known him for 30 years, first as a sportswriter and then working for the team, and Phil made players' lives easier so that all they had to do was worry about playing the game," said Orioles director of outreach and development Bill Stetka, who was the Orioles' public relations director for eight years and worked in that department for 13 years. "They didn't always make it easy for him with last-minute requests for tickets or a car or extra room for family. But he took care of it, and he didn't ask for anything."
Stetka said that when the Orioles won a world championship in 1983, the players voted to give Itzoe the full World Series share, which was uncommon at that time.
"That tells you the regard that the players held him in," Stetka said. "It's just a crushing blow."
Itzoe had a stroke in 2008, which forced him to give up his traveling secretary duties. According to Palmer, who visited Itzoe several times in the hospital, Itzoe talked about getting healthy and returning to the job.
"For a long, long, long time, Phil was a huge part of the organization," said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, the team's longest-tenured player. "He helped things run the way they should in every aspect. He was an icon when it came to that position in major league baseball and within our organization."
Said Orioles owner Peter Angelos: "It is with great sadness that we learned today of the passing of Phil Itzoe. Phil served the Orioles with excellence and loyalty for over four decades and was respected not just by his co-workers, but also by those throughout the sports industry for his integrity and dedication. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, TyLisa, and the rest of his family."
Itzoe is survived by his wife; two children, MariaLisa and Josh; a daughter-in-law, Jessica; and two grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
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