Mike Ryan, Red Sox ‘Impossible Dream’ Season Catcher, Dies at 78

Mike Ryan trading card. (Public domain.)

WHAV Sports Director Paul Ryan, Mike Ryan’s cousin, appears on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast” this morning.

The Boston Red Sox mourn the loss of Mike Ryan, who passed away in his sleep on Tuesday at the age of 78 in Wolfeboro, N.H.

He spent 35 years in professional baseball, including his first seven in the Red Sox organization as a player. A former catcher, he played in 79 regular season games for the Red Sox during their 1967 Impossible Dream season, also appearing in Game 4 of the 1967 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Born in Haverhill on Nov. 25, 1941, Ryan attended St. James High School. He signed a contract with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in October 1960 and began his professional career in 1961 with the Olean Red Sox of the New York-Penn League.

Ryan appeared in 636 major league games from 1964-74 with the Red Sox (1964-67), Philadelphia Phillies (1968-73), and Pittsburgh Pirates (1974). In 630 games behind the plate, he posted a .991 fielding percentage and threw out 43.6 percent of attempted base stealers (181-for-415).

In 1975, following his playing career, Ryan was hired by the Pirates as the manager of Class-A Charleston, where he remained through the 1976 season. He was hired by Philadelphia as a minor league catching instructor prior to the 1977 season, and that year he assumed the manager role for Oklahoma, the Phillies’ Triple-A club.

For 16 seasons from 1980-95, Ryan served as Philadelphia’s major league bullpen coach. In his first year in that role, the Phillies captured the National League pennant and their first World Series championship. During his time as the club’s bullpen coach, the Phillies also advanced to the World Series in 1983 and 1993.

Ryan is survived by his wife, Suzanne, to whom he was married for 52 years. He also is survived by his five siblings: Maureen Ryan and her husband, Bill; Anthony Ryan; James Ryan and his wife, Becky; Daniel Ryan; and Steven Ryan and his wife, Sheila.

In Ryan’s memory, his family wishes to dedicate a large, granite bench, in Haverhill. To contribute to the memorial, donations can be made to the Mike Ryan Memorial Bench Fund, c/o Pentucket Bank, 1 Merrimack Street, Haverhill, MA 01830.

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