By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Former Montreal Expos shortstop and Toronto Blue Jays third base coach Rich Hacker has passed away at the age of 72.
The Belleville, Ill., native died from complications from cancer in hospice care late Wednesday.
Canadian baseball fans will best remember Hacker as the Blue Jays’ third base coach from 1991 to 1993. He was a highly respected coach and mentor on the Blue Jays’ three consecutive division-winning squads (1991-93) and two World Championship teams (1992-93).
Hacker was one of the top third base coaches in the American League when he was involved in a serious car accident on Martin Luther King Bridge in St. Louis that rendered him unable to return to his field duties. The Blue Jays kept him on staff in an off-field role and named Nick Leyva his replacement. In one of the 1993 season’s most moving moments, Hacker returned to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
Prior to his coaching career, Hacker was a switch-hitting shortstop who was selected in the eighth round of the 1967 MLB draft by the New York Mets out of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
He’d spend parts of four seasons in the Mets’ organization, making it as high as double-A, before he was traded to the Expos on March 31, 1971, along with Ron Swoboda, for outfielder Don Hahn.
Hacker played the bulk of the 1971 season with the triple-A Winnipeg Whips, batting .235 in 98 games, but he was called up for two separate stints – totalling 16 contests – with the Expos that same year.
He suited up for two more seasons with the Expos triple-A affiliate in Peninsula before his playing career ended.
Prior to his coaching tenure with the Blue Jays, Hacker served as the first base coach on Whitey Herzog’s St. Louis Cardinals staff in 1986 and 1987, before moving over to the third base coaching box for three seasons (1988-90).
Hacker later served as a part-time scout for the San Diego Padres from 1996 to 2003.
For his efforts, he was elected to the Midwest Professional Baseball Scouts Association Hall of Fame in 2001.