PITTSBURGH — Phil Coyne, who spent more than 80 years ushering Pittsburgh Pirates fans to their seats through varying stages of success and failure by the team, has died. He was 102.
The team said Coyne died Friday. No cause of death was given.
“Phil was and always will be a true Pirates legend,” team chairman Bob Nutting said in a statement.
Coyne began working for the Pirates in 1936. For the next eight decades, he served as a fixture in the stands as the franchise moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium to PNC Park.
The club estimated he worked more than 6,000 games, a span that included three World Series titles and a close-up look at the Hall of Fame careers of Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski and the meteoric rise of Barry Bonds and Andrew McCutchen.
Coyne was there through it all, typically with a smile on his face and a rag in his hand to make sure the seats were clean. He became an icon of sorts, particularly during the late stages of his career. He worked between sections 26 and 27 at PNC Park, just down the third-base line from home plate. The team placed a plaque in Coyne’s section as a testament to his importance to the club.
“Phil was so much more than an usher to us and our fans,” Nutting said. “As a testament to his life of service to the game of baseball, his Pirates uniform and identification badge remain on permanent display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.”
The team gave Coyne a No. 99 jersey with his name on the back after his 99th birthday, and the Pittsburgh City Council designated Aug. 29, 2017, as “Phil Coyne Day.” He would often hold court with longtime season ticket holders during games and loved to regale fans of all ages with tales from the team’s storied past.
“Philly really was truly grateful for every Pirates fan who ever came up to him and shook his hand, gave him a hug or even asked for an autograph,” said Dan Coyne, Phil’s nephew. “He really loved interacting with the fans and felt the kindness from everyone at the Pirates family over the decades.”
Coyne officially retired in April 2018. His death came just one day after Pittsburgh’s home opener against Cincinnati and less than three weeks before his 103rd birthday.