Sports Outside the Beltway

Former MLB pitcher Steve Ridzik dead at 78

A journeyman pitcher with a career record of 39-38, his career spanned sixteen years, with a 6 year span in the middle where Ridzik pitched 29 innings or less of ML ball or was out of the league entirely. He was a VERY small part of the 1950 pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies known aka The Whiz Kids. Being a fan and player of Strat-O-Matic’s past seasons, I was somewhat familiar with Ridzik’s accomplishments. RIP

BRADENTON — Former professional baseball player Steve Ridzik never forgot the fans who helped him fulfill his dream for more than a decade.

The former pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Giants and several other teams, who died Jan. 8 of heart disease at 78, helped create a players’ alumni association that raises money for charity.

Ridzik helped organize a Bradenton golf tournament with former baseball players that raised more than $50,000 for Manatee Memorial Hospital in the early 1990s, said his wife, Nancy Ridzik of Bradenton. The ex-ballplayer had undergone open-heart surgery there for a triple bypass a couple of years earlier, she said.

In addition to taking part in several other fundraisers over the years, Ridzik also regularly granted fans’ requests for autographs by signing baseball cards and blank cards that arrived by mail on almost a daily basis, his wife said.

“We’ve even had baseball bats and baseballs sent here” and he obliged, she said.

Born April 29, 1929, in Yonkers, N.Y., Ridzik was signed by the Phillies’ in 1945 at age 16 and pitched his first major league game in 1950, the same year the Phillies went on to win the National League pennant for the first time in 35 years.

Nicknamed “The Whiz Kids” that year because their average age was 26, the Phillies were the youngest team to ever reach the World Series, which they lost to the New York Yankees.

Ridzik subsequently played for the Cincinnati Redlegs, the Giants, the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Senators before retiring from baseball in 1966. He later worked for a food distributor in the Washington, D.C., area before retiring and moving to Bradenton in 1988.

He helped former Senators teammate Chuck Hinton establish the nonprofit Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association in 1982 for former players to serve as goodwill ambassadors of the sport.

Ridzik returned to Philadelphia in 2000 for a 50th anniversary reunion of his pennant-winning team before a crowd of 40,000 in Veterans Stadium.

“He wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” his wife said. “I think there were 13 of the original ‘Whiz Kids’ still around back then, and now there are only about six left.”

In retirement, he enjoyed golfing and watching horse and dog racing.

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