|Born: November 8, 1930|
West Warwick, Rhode Island
|Died: July 27, 2019 (aged 88)|
West Warwick, Rhode Island
|April 19, 1961, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 3, 1964, for the Detroit Tigers|
Michael Thomas Roarke (November 8, 1930 – July 27, 2019) was an American catcher and coach in Major League Baseball. During his playing days he threw and batted right-handed, stood 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) tall and weighed 195 pounds (88 kg).
Roarke was born in West Warwick, Rhode Island, where he graduated from high school in 1948. He earned a B.Sc. degree in history at Boston College, and served as captain of the Eagles' football and baseball teams. He won the Scanlan Award in 1951 for outstanding ability in scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability.
Like his college teammate, future MLB utilityman and manager Joe Morgan, Roarke signed with the local National League club, the Boston Braves, in 1952. After a brief stint with the Braves' Evansville farm club in the Class B Three-I League, Roarke entered the military, effectively delaying his professional debut until 1954.
Known as a good handler of pitchers and an excellent defensive catcher, Roarke struggled as a hitter, eclipsing a .250 batting average only three times in his seven-year minor league career. The Braves, who had moved to Milwaukee just before the 1953 season, employed one of the best and most durable catchers of the 1950s, eleven-time National League All-Star Del Crandall, and were also one of the era's deepest and strongest Major League clubs. They never called Roarke up from Triple-A.
After the 1959 season, Roarke was traded to the Detroit Tigers in a deal that included Charley Lau. He toiled one further season, 1960, in the minors (with the Denver Bears of the American Association) before finally making his Major League debut with the Tigers at age 30 on April 19, 1961. He spent four seasons (1961–64) as Detroit's second-string receiver, working behind Dick Brown, Gus Triandos and Bill Freehan. In 194 total games, Roarke batted .230 with six home runs and 44 runs batted in.
He retired as an active player on October 9, 1964, to become a bullpen coach with the Tigers (1965–66) and California Angels (1967–69). Roarke then transitioned from bullpen coach to pitching coach—one of the handful of former catchers who excelled at being a pitching coach. He returned to the Tigers in 1970 as the replacement for high-profile mound tutor Johnny Sain for one season.
Then, after a seven-year stint (1971–77) as a minor league manager and roving minor league pitching instructor, Roarke served as a pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals (where he worked on two NL pennant winners—1985 and 1987—under Whitey Herzog), San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox, retiring after the strike-shortened 1994 season. He also spent three seasons in his native Rhode Island as pitching coach of the 1981–83 Pawtucket Red Sox of the International League, working with his old college classmate, Morgan, during his first two years with Pawtucket.
He died on July 27, 2019, in West Warwick.