Sports Outside the Beltway

Former Major League Infielder Hillis Layne dead at age 91

Like so many players of his time, Layne lost some of prime baseball years to World War II. He played for the Washington Senators before and after serving in the Army.RIP.Hillis Layne

Hillis Layne, 91, a Whitwell native, played in the major and minor pro baseball leagues. For much of his career, Layne played for the Seattle Mariniers of the Pacific Coast League. His play on the field earned him the nickname “Mandrake” after the magician in the comics and the league’s batting championship in 1947.

Other playing stops for Layne included the Chattanooga Lookouts and the major league Washington Senators.

Layne was a scout for many years for the Texas Rangers. Altogether, Mr. Layne spent 40 years playing, managing and as a scout for professional baseball teams.


Former NY Yankee pitcher Tom Sturdivant dead at 78

He won 59 games in a career that spanned 10 years. He won 36 games in a Yankee uniform, notching 16 victories in both 1956 and 57. He pitched in three World Series alsoRIP


Former MLB Manager Preston Gomez dead at 85

He was the first ever manager of the San Diego Padres. Before that he worked in the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodger organization and had a very brief career as a player. RIP


Former MLB Pitcher Nick Willhite dead at 67

A hard throwing lefty, he was on two world series rosters with the Los Angeles Dodgers but never appeared on the mound. Two interesting notes about his career.

He was sold and repurchased by the LA Dodgers in less than seven months.

More notably, he was traded by the California Angels to the New York Mets in 1967 for Jack Hamilton. This set in motion the beaning of Boston Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro later in the season. Jack Hamilton was the pitcher whose pitch helped destroy that promising player’s career. Thought I would share that trivia. RIP Nick.


Former MLB Shortstop Eddie Brinkman dead at 66

An excellent gloveman, but a light hitter, Brinkman played spent most of his career with the Washington Senators and Detroit Tigers. Brinkman was part of the deal that sent Denny McLain to Washington after the 1970 season. More recently Eddie Brinkman worked for the Chicago White Sox. Living in New York till I was 15, I saw Brinkman play when I sometimes watched NY Yankee baseball. He was an excellent defensive SS. RIP Eddie.


Former MLB Pitcher Chuck Stobbs dead at age 79

The left handed Stobbs came to the Major Leagues for the first time in 1947 and stayed around till 1961. He won over 100 games, but with a losing record. Mostly because he played most of his career with one of the worst teams(The Senators) in the American League. His one claim to fame or infamy, was giving up a 565 homerun to Mickey Mantle. My memories of Stobbs comes from my playing past seasons of Strat-O-Matic baseball. His luck in most of the games I recreated were no better than Stobbs was in real-life. RIP.


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.


Former NY Yankee pitcher Tommy Byrne dead at 87

He did two tours with the Casey Stengel Yankees starting in 1949. Casey never had a set rotation or lineup. Rather he was always moving pitchers around, if not from the starting rotation to the bullpen, or the Yankees to Kansas City, Stengel liked to match certain pitchers against certain AL teams. Pitchers Whitey Ford, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat seeing usually the AL’s best other than NY. Guys like Byrne, Don Larsen, Art Ditmar and others facing the 2nd division. Still Tommy was a vital cog of 3 World Championship teams, appeared in 4 post seasons, won 85 games, and swung a pretty good bat for a pitcher. As seen by his lifetime Batting average of .238, .350 OBP and 8 career homeruns. RIP.

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (AP) — Tommy Byrne, who fulfilled a boyhood dream by pitching for the New York Yankees and won a game during the 1955 World Series, has died. He was 87.

Byrne, who served two terms as Wake Forest mayor, died Thursday, his son John said Saturday. Tommy Byrne had congestive heart failure and was in declining health the last six weeks. He was surrounded by his family and priest when he died, his son added.

After two years at what was then Wake Forest College, Byrne signed with the Yankees in 1940. In his rookie year of 1943, he played in 11 games and had a 2-1 record.

Byrne eventually was traded to the St. Louis Browns and also pitched for the Chicago White Sox and the Washington Senators. He returned to the Yankees in 1954, and in 1955 pitched a complete-game victory in Game 2 of the World Series. But he was the loser in Game 7, 2-0 to Johnny Podres and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“His lifetime dream was to pitch for the New York Yankees,” said John Byrne, who is mayor of Fuquay-Varina. He said that dream grew from the fact that his father was born in Baltimore, home of Babe Ruth. The two eventually met when Ruth appeared at an old-timers game at Yankee Stadium.

“He borrowed my father’s glove,” John Byrne said. “Daddy said he could have had anything he had in his locker.”

The glove is in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, displayed as the last glove Ruth used at Yankee Stadium.

Byrne served eight years as a town commissioner starting in 1968 and became mayor in 1975. He served a second term as mayor in the 1980s but failed in at least three attempts to become a county commissioner.

“My father always believed in helping people and serving,” John Byrne said. “In growing up, I got to see him do a lot of good things. You have role models as you pass through life. He was certainly one of mine.”

Besides John Byrne and his wife, Tommy Byrne is survived by two other sons, Thomas J. Byrne Jr. and Charles P. Byrne; a daughter, Susan Byrne Gantt; 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.


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