Rich Mahler Dies of Heart Attack at 51

Ex-Brave Mahler dies of heart attack (AJC)

New York Mets minor league pitching coach Rick Mahler, who started five season openers for the Braves in the 1980s, died of a heart attack Wednesday morning in Jupiter, Fla. He was 51.

“It’s a sad day,” said Mets assistant general manager Jim Duquette, who made the announcement after the team’s Grapefruit League opener against Washington.

“I didn’t know he had any type of problem,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “It’s awful.”

The Braves, who were playing Georgia Tech at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, were notified by Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, a former Brave. “It was a shock,” Cox said.

Mahler, whose brother Mickey also pitched for the Braves, was 96-111 with a 3.99 ERA during a 13-year major league career (1979-1991). His best season came in 1985, when he was 17-15 with a 3.48 ERA for the Braves. The next year, he was 14-18, leading the majors in losses. The right-hander started on opening day for the Braves in 1982, when Atlanta won its first 13 games and went on to win the National League West title under manager Joe Torre. Mahler made four straight opening-day starts beginning in 1985. Cox was manager of the Braves through the 1981 season and returned to the team as general manager in 1986, reuniting with Mahler during a dismal time in the team’s history. “Rick was a great competitor,” Cox said. “He could pitch.” Mahler pitched twice in the playoffs, with the Braves in 1982 and in 1990 with the Cincinnati team that went on to win the World Series.

Sad news, indeed.

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  1. Tom says:

    Oh, my. Wow, I remember him as a random Brave to this day. Thanks for pointing this out for me. The fact that he was 51 amazes me as well.

  2. Cousin Dave says:

    Wow. I am stunned. I have vivid memories of Mahler. There is no pitcher in the major leagues today who can throw the fall-off-the-table slow curve that Mahler used. He only had an upper-80s fastball, but that was all he needed; after flailing away at those curve balls, anything else looked like a Randy Johnson fastball to the hitters.

    The Braves played a game against the Cardinals in the early part of the 1988 season that went something like 17 innings. Mahler pitched nine innings in relief and was the winning pitcher in that game. (It’s more remembered for who the losing pitcher was – utility infielder Jose Oquendo, who I believe is now a coach with the Cards.)