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Don McMahon Dies of Heart Attack : Dodger Scout, 57, Is Stricken While Pitching Batting Practice

July 23, 1987|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

Don McMahon, a special assignment scout for the Dodgers who had an 18-season major league career as a relief pitcher, died of a heart attack at a local hospital Wednesday evening after collapsing on the Dodger Stadium field during batting practice. He was 57.

McMahon, who had undergone heart bypass surgery 3 1/2 years ago when he was the Cleveland Indians' pitching coach, collapsed at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday after pitching early batting practice. A Dodger spokesman said McMahon arrived at Queen of Angels Medical Center in Los Angeles at 5:21 and was pronounced dead at 6:15.

He is survived by his wife, Darlene, and six children. The family resides in Garden Grove.

The Dodgers had employed McMahon the last two seasons as a coach in the press box who relayed fielding positions of Dodger players to Manager Tom Lasorda in the dugout. He also had assisted pitching coach Ron Perranoski in working with Dodger pitchers.

"He was a great man, an outstanding person," Lasorda said of McMahon. "I sat there with him and held his hand while the trainers were (administering CPR). I loved him like a brother. It's a shame."

McMahon, whose pitching career spanned from 1957 to 1974, played for six teams, participated in three World Series and posted a 90-68 career record. He also was selected to the 1958 National League All-Star team as a member of the Milwaukee Braves.

McMahon ranks among baseball's all-time leaders in games pitched with 874 and in relief victories with 90. At age 43, McMahon posted a 4-0 record with the San Francisco Giants in 1973.

Wednesday, McMahon had almost concluded throwing early batting practice--part of his standard pregame routine--when he complained of dizziness and shortness of breath.

He sat on the grass near the batting cage, his hands grasping his chest. Several Dodger coaches assisted McMahon to the dugout, where he apparently went into cardiac arrest.

Three Dodger trainers administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived. Paramedics worked on McMahon for 10 minutes before transporting him to the hospital.

Said Lasorda: "I was walking to the dugout with him and he said, 'I feel dizzy.' That's the last words he said to me." McMahon, described by those close to him on the Dodgers as a hard worker and a knowledgeable student of the game, had made it a regular practice of throwing early batting practice.

Manny Mota, the Dodger hitting coach, said McMahon usually pitched for 15 minutes before hitting ground balls to players during regular batting practice. "Today, he threw for about 12 minutes and told me he was feeling dizzy," Mota said. "I told him to get off (the mound) and rest. In another three minutes, he would have been done and in the clubhouse. I could tell just by looking at him he was having trouble breathing."

McMahon, who went to Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Raider owner Al Davis, was described Wednesday as a lover of sports who closely followed the Raiders and Lakers.

A Dodger spokesman said that, in 1986, Davis recommended McMahon for the Dodgers' "eye-in-the-sky" job to then-Dodger vice president Al Campanis.

McMahon had exercised regularly since his bypass surgery. Last month, he pitched 18 innings of a media game between sportswriters and sportscasters at Dodger Stadium.

Former Dodger Duke Snider, who often batted against McMahon, said: "He never gave into a hitter. He was a great competitor. I didn't know him well, but I know he was tough to hit against."

Lasorda: "He loved to pitch. He wanted to do it. He really enjoyed it. He was a tough guy, a hard worker."

Bill Buhler, the Dodgers' head trainer, said exercise is recommended to heart bypass patients. "They want you to do what (McMahon) did (exercise)," Buhler said. "I'm sure people have run marathons after bypass surgery."

Dodger players and coaches were told of McMahon's death 45 minutes before Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. A moment of silence was observed before the national anthem. Said Dodger infielder Mickey Hatcher: "It was tough for me to go out there and play. To see him there in front of me on the field, it was frustrating. I just pictured him lying there the whole game. I'll picture that my whole life."

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