Former Mariners catcher Marzano dies at 45

Former Mariners catcher Marzano dies at 45
Seattle Mariners catcher John Marzano loses his helmet as he begins a fight with New York Yankees' Paul O'Neill in this 1996 file photo.
Click here to read Shannon Drayer's memories of "Marzy" in her KOMO Radio blog.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Former major leaguer John Marzano died Saturday after falling down a flight of stairs at his home. He was 45.

The cause of his death was not immediately clear, police said.

Marzano was from Philadelphia and had been working for Major League Baseball's Web site, where he co-hosted a show on weekday mornings.

"John was a beloved member of our team, a personable, terrific friend to all with whom he worked," said Bob Bowman, chief executive officer of MLB Advanced Media. "He was an engaging, informed interviewer. His energy, knowledge of the game and comedic touch produced admirable results. We miss him dearly already."

In a statement announcing his death, MLB said Marzano had fallen. MLB.com will establish an internship program in Marzano's name, the release said.

Before joining MLB's Web site, Marzano was a baseball analyst on Comcast SportsNet for the station's Philadelphia Phillies postgame shows. He had also appeared regularly on WIP-AM.

"John was one of those rare persons who put a smile on your face the moment you saw him. He was joyous and he was proud," said Comcast's Michael Barkann, who co-hosted many of the postgame shows with Marzano. "You always knew when John was in the room. You never asked, 'When'd you get here, Johnny?' He always made an entrance, and it was big and it was loud and it was full of joy."

Marzano, known for his South Philly accent, appeared with Barkann on the station's "Daily News Live" show from the Wachovia Center before the Philadelphia Flyers hosted the Washington Capitals in an NHL playoff game on Thursday. At one point, Marzano stopped in mid-sentence, turned to the crowd and screamed, "Let's Go Flyers!"

"The place went nuts," Barkann said. "He did that a few more times during his segment to the same effect each time. That will be my enduring memory of John - smiling, talking sports with a sea of fans behind him. I will miss him every day."

A graduate of Temple, Marzano earned a spot as a catcher on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team that included future major league stars Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin and Will Clark. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox with the 14th overall pick in the first round of the 1984 amateur draft.

Marzano played 10 seasons in the big leagues for the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners before retiring in 1998. He also played in the minors for the Phillies and the Cleveland Indians.

Overall, Marzano batted .241 with 11 homers and 72 RBIs in 794 at-bats in 301 games.

"He was a baseball guy and he loved life," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who managed Marzano in Cleveland's minor-league system in 1993. "He had a personality. He was kind of a pepper-pot player. He was a go-getting kind of guy. That's what he had to do and it worked for him."

Marzano was popular in Seattle for his altercation with New York Yankees outfielder Paul O'Neill during a game in 1996. The two traded punches at home plate after O'Neill took exception to a knockdown pitch by Tim Davis.

Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer played three seasons with Marzano in Seattle and remained friends with him.

"He was a lot of fun to be around," Moyer said after facing the New York Mets on Saturday. "He was the brunt of a lot of jokes, but he could dish it out too. He always used to call everybody, 'Cuz.' He'll be missed."

The Red Sox planned to honor Marzano with a moment of silence before their game against Texas on Saturday.

"John was an endeared member of the Philadelphia sports community who not only represented our city well as both an athlete and a broadcaster, but also had incredible passion for the games we play," Phillies president David Montgomery said in a statement. "Our deepest condolences go out to the Marzano family at this difficult time."

Marzano is survived by his wife, Terri, daughters Dominique and Danielle, and two grandchildren.