I wanted to acknowledge the passing of my dad, Phil Itzoe, last Wednesday, February 10. My dad was a truly amazing guy and one of the finest men I ever knew. He spent a total of 45 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, coordinating the team's travel plans for the last 41. His last season was 2008 and at the time he had (and I believe still has) the longest tenure of any traveling secretary in the four major sports leagues.
Dad was an avid sports fan, voracious reader and history buff, and he was deeply loved, admired and respected by everyone who knew him both inside and outside the game of baseball.
A native of York, PA, Dad grew up in nearby New Freedom, PA. He played baseball and football at Susquehannock High School before transferring to York Catholic HS, where he played football. He attended York Junior College for two years before transferring to Millersville (PA) State College, earning three baseball letters. After graduating from Millersville in 1960, he spent three years as a reporter for the York Dispatch before joining the Orioles.
In 1963, while covering an assignment for the Dispatch that required him to travel to Baltimore, he stopped by the Baltimore Colts’ offices to inquire about employment opportunities. Told that the team had no openings, it was recommended that he go next door to the Orioles’ offices. Although the ballclub had no current positions available, his resume was kept on file and a year later, in 1964, he joined the organization as an assistant to the public relations director. He took over traveling secretary duties in 1968 and held them through the 2008 season.
In 2008, I had the privilege of inducting Dad into the Orioles Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Herb Armstrong Award for non-uniformed personnel who made significant contributions to the organization. He was also inducted into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and the York Catholic High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
Viewed as legendary among his peers, Dad was honored in 1990 with the first Donald Davidson Memorial Award, given to the top traveling secretary in the major leagues. In 1985, Sports Illustrated published an article entitled, “The Team Of Your Dreams” proposing its version of a true All-Star organization, from top to bottom. Dad was selected as the team’s Traveling Secretary along with fellow Orioles greats such as Eddie Murray (First Base), Hank Peters (General Manager) and Pat Santarone (Groundskeeper).
Here are some great quotes honoring my dad:
Jim Palmer - HOF Orioles Pitcher
"I used to always call him 'Fabulous Phil,' " Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said. "Phil did everything, and he was there for all the good times, all our championships. You know how difficult a job that is? You don't get paid the amount of money the managers do, but he had to deal with all the players, and he did it with class, with a sense of humor and with kindness. You don't find too many guys like Phil. When you lose somebody like that, it's just another horrible day."
Tippy Martinez - Former Orioles Reliever
"There are no words that could explain the type of character Phil had. Anything you wanted, he got it done. If you forgot to get tickets to the game (for friends and family), all you had to do was talk to Phil. All we had to worry about was our suitcase, because everything else was taken care of. He did such a great job. But more than just doing a good job, he was an honest man. You could give him your wallet and come back knowing everything would be how you left it. He got along with everybody. If you had a bad day with Phil, there's something wrong with you. It was a long way coming to get him mad, because honestly, I never saw him upset."
Andy Etchebarren - Former Orioles Catcher
"He did everything he could for you. He was a very, very good friend,."
Brian Roberts - Orioles 2nd Baseman
"For a long, long, long time, Phil was a huge part of the organization. He helped things run the way they should in every aspect. He was an icon when it came to that position in major league baseball and within our organization."
Peter Angelos - Orioles Owner
"It is with great sadness that we learned today of the passing of Phil Itzoe. Phil served the Orioles with excellence and loyalty for over four decades and was respected not just by his co-workers, but also by those throughout the sports industry for his integrity and dedication. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, TyLisa, and the rest of his family."
Dad was an incredibly humble, modest, kind, loyal and caring human being and a class act. I've rarely met anyone who was so well-liked by everyone who met him and who always sought to put the needs of other people before his own without ever asking anything in return. Rest in peace, Dad. I love you and I'll miss you.
It's been amazing to see the number of tributes that have been written to my Dad over the past few days - here are some of my favorites:
I was pleased to be featured on the cover of the November/December issue of Maryland Investor Magazine. The magazine is a relatively new publication created by Bill Slaughter and Stephanie Pietry and is dedicated to informing HNW Marylanders about investment, legal and tax issues while providing a lifestyle element as well.
I was pleased to recently be quoted in Employee Benefit Adviser for an article about employer matching and what I am seeing in the marketplace. You can read the full article here.
I was pleased to be quoted along with Mike Alfred from Brightscope in November's issue of SmartMoney Magazine. Janet Paskin interviewed Mike and I for her article entitled "Meet the People Who Run Your 401(k)". Interestingly, there were some plan fiduciaries who were actually quoted in the article as well (although I'm not so sure their employees will take comfort in their comments.)
For better or worse, I thought the article did a very good job of taking a ground-level look at how plans are generally operated and perceived by the fiduciaries and participants. To me, the article highlighted several common (though usually faulty) perspectives from the plan fiduciaries who were quoted:
1. Some viewed the plan and their fiduciary duties as an afterthought.
2. Some seemed to think they were really "smart" and, therefore, doing a much better job at making decisions than they actually were.
3. None seemed to understand or grasp which decisions really matter (and which ones don't) in terms of designing their plan to be most effective and helping their employees use the plan wisely in order to accumulate more money.
Unfortunately, my experience has been that these misconceptions or errors in thinking are usually the rule out in the marketplace, rather than being the exception. It's no wonder that most employees don't value their 401(k) plan or view it as a "benefit", especially when the prevailing attitude of some plan fiduciaries (as highlighted in the article) is "The 401(k)? That’s the least of my problems.”
Even so, with only a little bit of understanding and effort, the companies named in the article could go from having a poor/mediocre 401(k) plan to a great one like this.