Longtime Dodger trainer Bill Buhler, whose innovative techniques are still being practiced throughout baseball, died Saturday after a lengthy illness, the club announced Sunday. He was 75.
“It crushed me when I heard the news,” said Stan Johnston, the team’s lead trainer and one of Buhler’s proteges.
“I looked up to him, he taught me a lot about the game of baseball, and he inspired me to keep thinking of new ways to improve our profession in baseball. That was his biggest thing.
“He was years ahead of other trainers with ideas on how to rehabilitate guys. He was years ahead with the different exercise programs he came up with.”
Buhler, who spent 44 years with the Dodgers, became lead trainer in 1960, holding the position until his retirement after the 1995 season. For several years after that, he assisted the Long Beach State baseball program and attended fantasy camps at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla.
He developed much of the exercise equipment former pitcher Tommy John used while rehabilitating from the reconstructive elbow procedure team physician Frank Jobe pioneered in 1974.
“He was very innovative,” Jobe said of Buhler, who is credited, along with Steve Yeager, with developing the plastic shield catchers use to protect their throats. “I dealt with him a lot on the Tommy John situation, and he had the ability to make all kinds of equipment to fit our needs.
“A lot of trainers know what they’re taught, but he had the ability to take what he learned and add to it with innovation. Bill was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known, and he was the standard by which all other trainers judged their skills.”