As T-Mobile Park went silent and the 20,000-plus fans bowed their heads to honor the passing of a man most of them didn’t know about, let alone understand his influence on the Mariners as an organization and the game of baseball, a picture of a smiling Benjamin Ray “Benny” Looper appeared on the massive video screen in center field.
Looper, who spent more than 30 years of his life in professional baseball, including 22 years with the Mariners, passed away Friday in Norman, Oklahoma, at the age of 72.
A gentleman in every sense, Looper had a kind and gentle demeanor that allowed him to fit in comfortably in almost any situation and made him beloved by those who worked with him and for him.
Looper worked in a variety of roles in the baseball operations and scouting department for the Mariners and general manager Pat Gillick and later Bill Bavasi, who was named as Gillick’s replacement. Looper was a finalist along with Bavasi for his “dream job,” but remained in the organization after not getting chosen.
The Mariners released this about Looper’s passing:
“Upon learning of his passing today, the Mariners thoughts are with the family of longtime Mariners and Major League Baseball scout and executive Benny Looper.
“After beginning his career as a professional scout with Toronto, Benny spent 22 seasons (1987-2008) as an integral part of the Mariners baseball operation as a scout, national supervisor and cross checker, special assignment scout, director of player development, vice president of player development & scouting, and vice president of player personnel. Benny helped find, develop, and promote key players for the Mariners for more than two decades. His importance in the team’s successes in the 90s and 2000s can not be overstated.
“More importantly though, Benny was one of the best people to ever work in Major League Baseball. His skills on the field were only overshadowed by his personality, ready smile, caring demeanor, and passion to help others succeed that he demonstrated each day for the Blue Jays, Mariners and (from 2008 until his retirement in 2017) the Phillies.
“We hope his memory is a blessing for his wife Sandra, children Staci and Aaron, and four grandchildren.”
Looper left the organization after 2008 when general manager Jack Zduriencik was hired to replace Bavasi, who was fired midway through that season. Zduriencik asked Looper, who was serving as the team’s vice president of player personnel, to take a demotion to a scouting role in the Midwest. Looper declined and left the organization.
He didn’t remain unemployed for long. Gillick, who was promoted to president of baseball operations for the Phillies, hired his longtime friend to serve as an assistant general manager of player personnel for his replacement Ruben Amaro Jr.
Looper stayed with the Phillies until 2017, eventually moving into a senior adviser role.
Amaro Jr. tweeted out his thoughts on Looper’s death:
“I was just informed that a very close friend, mentor, baseball lifer and co-worker, Benny Looper, has passed away. Benny was one of my first hires as a GM and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made both personally and professionally. I am just crushed.”
“The world has lost a wonderful man and one of the kindest, most considerate gentleman I’ve come to know. Thank you, Benny, for all you’ve meant to me, my family, to baseball, to the @Phillies and to your family. Keep the Loopers in your prayers. RIP, Benny. Love you”
The Phillies released this statement:
“The Phillies are deeply saddened to announce the passing of a special friend, former Assistant General Manager and Special Advisor Benny Looper. Benny was a member of the Phillies organization from 2008 to 2017. He was responsible for scouting and player development in both amateur and professional assignments. During his tenure, 11 minor league teams made the playoffs with three winning their respective championships. Aside from his contributions to the club’s success, Benny will long be remembered for his endearing personality, kindhearted demeanor, and infectious smile.”
Looper was born Sept. 29, 1948, in Granite, Oklahoma. A standout catcher for Granite High School, he was drafted in the second round of the 1968 MLB draft by the Cardinals. He played five minor league seasons.