Ridzik, former Phillies "Whiz Kid," dies at 78
BRADENTON, Fla. - Former pitcher Steve Ridzik, a member of the "Whiz Kids" Philadelphia Phillies that went to the World Series in 1950, has died. He was 78.
Ridzik died Jan. 8 after battling heart disease for several years, said Nancy Ridzik, his wife of 10 years. He returned to Philadelphia in 2000 for a celebration of the 1950 Phillies team, which lost in the World Series to the New York Yankees.
"He wouldn't have missed it for the world," Nancy Ridzik said Thursday.
Born in Yonkers, N.Y., on April 29, 1929, Ridzik was signed as a prospect by the Phillies when he was 16. He won 39 games and had a lifetime 3.79 earned-run average over 12 major league seasons that included stops with the Washington Senators, the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Reds.
After baseball, Ridzik worked for a military food distributor in the Washington, D.C., area before moving to Florida in the late 1980s. He helped organize charity events featuring former major league players in Florida and helped former Senators teammate Chuck Hinton establish the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children, a brother and sister, and four grandchildren.
Retired pitcher always happy to give
Sarasota HeraldTribune January 16. 2008
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.
"He was very outgoing, but he never brought up baseball," his wife said. "But everybody would bring it up to him once they knew he played, and then it was like a game with them to see how much he knew, and he'd always come up with the right answer. He knew everything about the game."
In addition to his wife of 10 years, he is survived by a son, Stephen, of Ashburn, Va.; two daughters, Liz Mawhorter of Leesburg, Va., and Karen Luiggi of Manassas, Va.; a stepdaughter, Lisa Hopko of Maitland; a brother, Emil, of Rock Hill, S.C.; a sister, Julia Zanzerella of Rock Hill, S.C.; and four grandchildren.
Services were held last week.
Memorial donations may be made to TideWell Hospice and Palliative Care, 5955 Rand Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34238.