Ridley's memory lives at Canadian HOF
* The late Jim Ridley, a former scout, player and national team coach, will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this summer along with Tim Wallach, Dave Van Horne, and Murray Cook. ....
By Bob Elliott
Upon his selection into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Murray Cook took time to praise the late Jim Ridley, former scout, player and national team coach, who was also elected.
“I’ve covered the Canadian Junior National Team on a few of their trips to Florida,” said Cook, former general manager of three teams -- the New York Yankees, Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds -- and now an amateur cross checker for the Detroit Tigers.
“Jim Ridley was The Guy in Canada,” said Cook. “Just as Bobby Prentice was when it came to scouting in Canada before him.”
Ridley scouted one year under Prentice with the Tigers before joining the Jays and running their first tryout game in Utica, N.Y. in 1976. He had a Blue Jays on his heart until when he was fired in 2002 ... he was on the road scouting again in Utica.
“Jim Ridley was a special man, I remember my first year scouting Canada for the Expos,” said current Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. “Rids was like the guy who looked up at lunch time and saw the kid on first day of school -- me -- and told him it was OK for him to come sit at his table.
“He was very helpful, he never told me much about players, but he told me I had to go to this tournament, I should be here, how this coach is really good evaluating his pitchers but undervalues his catchers, all kinds of information.”
The Ridley children, Shannon and her brothers, twins Jeremy and Shayne, said in a statement:
“We are deeply honored that our father has been elected into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Our father was a player, coach, manager, scout and teacher of the game. He devoted himself to helping young players achieve their dreams of becoming better at their sport.
“Although techniques have changed in the game over the years and perhaps Dad had some out of fashion ideas, he always taught that any and all athletes must play with honour, respect and with a positive view about themselves and others.
“This is how he taught us, as we now instill and teach in our own children and we are thrilled that he in turn is being honoured, respected and positively remembered for his many years of contribution to the sport of baseball in Canada.”
Ridley is the only two-time winner of the Canadian Baseball Network scout of the year award, which is now named the Jim Ridley award.
“I am proud for the family of Jim Ridley,” said Twins GM Terry Ryan. “Not only was he a great ambassador for the game of baseball, he was a great man period.”
We could write again about Rids, who was a pal for a long time, but we thought it was best to let you have a look at his obit and the reaction of people whose lives he touched in the moment after his death in a Burlington hospital on Nov. 28, 2008.
At the time, it our all-time hits leader and still is. More people posted about the story than any other at the time and the same is true today.
It wasn’t the words that touched so many.
No, it was the man himself.
Originally published 11/28/2008
By Bob Elliott
The first thing you saw was one his of trademark Australian cowboy hats.
It could be spotted from either dugout at Connorvale in Etobicoke as it bounded along at a quick clip over the hedge row in right field ...
Or down the left-field line getting a good angle to check the mechanics of a right-hander or in the stands at the Canada Cup at Medicine Hat, Alta.
Or silhouetted against a blue Florida sky as the Canadian National Junior Team took batting practice inside the tunnel at the Atlanta Braves spring training complex.
That was Jim Ridley.
Ridley, who spent his life in baseball, playing, coaching, managing and scouting, passed away at 10:25 a.m. at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital Nov. 28.
Deepest sympathies are expressed to daughter Shannon (Milton, Ont.), and twin sons Jeremy (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Shayne (Phoenix, Az.), the former Ball State double play combination. Shayne made our 2000 All-Canadian Team as a shortstop.
Visitation will be held Saturday, Dec. 6 from 2-to-6 at McKersie-Kocher Funeral Home located at 114 Main Street East in Milton, Ont.
Ridley played in the Milwaukee Braves system, after he was signed by Jim Fanning, for the Sherbrooke Alouettes in 1969-70 in the Quebec Provincial League and with the Toronto Maple Leafs and won the 1974 Intercounty title with Stratford Kraven Knits while winning the MVP.
He scouted for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1976-2002. And since 2003, he scouted Canada and the Eastern U.S. for the Minnesota Twins.
But he was more than a pro scout. He was Canadiana whether wearing a Team Canada cap, an Ontario cap or the Aussie cowboy lid.
Before Greg Hamilton there was a Team Canada National Junior Team. And Ridley ran it when the school year ended.
He wore a Team Canada red and white from 1983-88 winning bronze medals at the Worlds in 1983 at Johnstown, Pa. and in 1987 at Windsor, Ont. with a young runt named Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.). He managed Team Canada at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and the 1991 Pan-Am Games in Mexico. He also coached the Canada in the 1989 Pacific Cup, the 1989 World Student Games and the 1989 Worlds.
The Braves signed right-hander Bobby Duguid and the late Bobby Prentice signed third baseman Charlie Hughes the same year. When all were finished with pro ball they all headed to the Quebec league.
“Well, Hughes stayed down there for about 10 years before he came back to Toronto,” said Bob Smyth (Ladysmith, BC). “I run into Hughes playing pick up hockey at the Lambton Arena. So, I call Rids and tell him there has been a Hughes sighting and we should go down to the Lambton Hotel to meet him after hockey.
“There is a long pause and Rids says “OK, where am I spending the night?’ We sat down around 8:30 and those guys didn’t miss a beat telling stories until closing time. It was a great baseball night.”
Ridley coached the 1992 Canadian champion Brampton bantams and the 2007 Canadian champion Georgetown peewees, both under coach Bill Byckowski.
Ridley met Byckowksi in 1975 when the latter was a 14-year-old catching prospect from Brampton and then managed Byckowski at the Olympics.
The other night in room 3101 at the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington as Ridley slept peacefully, Byckowski asked as a hard-working nurse whether she knew exactly who her sleeping patient is. The nurse asked a series of questions and the longer Byckowski spoke of Ridley’s place in Canadian baseball the more times the night nurse said “Wow!”
“Wow, he coached in the Olympics.”
“Wow, he played pro ball.”
“Wow, he won bronze medal at the worlds for Canada. Twice?”
“Wow, he signed major leaguers.”
Ridley would watch The Score highlight package which runs in a half-hour loop on hours when not on the phone or filing his reports. Over and over.
Ridley was known from coast to coast, or as former National Team coach Remo Cardinale (Mississauga, Ont.) said: “Everyone in Canadian baseball knew Jim Ridley whether you were from Winnipeg or Punky Doodle’s Corners.”
“I got to really know him in 1988 when he coached Team Canada, then I coached against him when he had the Milton bantams in 1992,” said Byckowski, who Ridley always called Bronk -- a nickname Byckowksi picked up playing Intercounty for the Maple Leafs.
The next year, Prentice hired Byckowski to run the Canadian arm of the Jays scouting system, Byckowski became Ridley’s boss. Ridley was still teaching full time and scouting on a part-time basis. Byckowski hired Ridley full time in 1995.
“Baseball is going to be a lot different next summer without Jim,” Byckowski said. “It will be strange walking into a park on the prairies or in B.C. without him.
“We did our own thing when we got to the park, but we often travelled together. I told my sons (Thomas and Robert) about Jim. They both knew him, had worked with him and loved him. At the end though, they were sorry for me ... I said ‘we’ve all lost a dear friend.’”
Byckowski is not the only one who will miss Ridley, whether it is a 12-year-old who attended his winter pitching lessons at Hamilton Cardinals camp, a youngster struggling with his hitting or the Twins or Ridley’s compatriots and competitors on the road.
“I’m going to miss seeing him at parks, but so are a lot of Canadian scouts,” said Byckowski, “when you lose a peer like that it’s tough. I’m sure a lot of guys will miss him, scouts like Claude Pelletier, Jim Chapman, Ed Heather, Walt Burrows, Alex Agostino, Don Cowan, Denis Boucher and guys in the States that respected him so much like Chris Buckley, Tim O’Neil and Tim Wilken.
“In scouting everyone gets to know each other.”
Life on the road, anywhere from 90-to-120 nights a year, can be gruelling, tiresome and boring. So the fun times are remembered.
Like a tryout camp Byckowski and Ridley ran in St. Catharines in 1997. Ridley had the pitchers.
Two catchers were warming two pitchers in the bullpen. About 1/2 way though a 5-foot-11, 125-pounder took his turn wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt rather than a uniform.
“He’s throwing and he’s hitting the catcher -- the catcher catching the other pitcher, so anyway we get him up on the mound, put a gun on him and he is a whopping 47 miles per hour,” Byckowski said. “Jim is being real professional and I’ve got the giggles almost wetting myself.”
And it went like this...
Rather then booting the kid off the field, Ridley continued:
Ridley: “Son, do you have a curve ball?”
T-Shirt: “Sir, I throw seven different curve balls.”
Ridley: “How ‘bout we see your best one.”
After bouncing the pitch, Ridley called for the next pitcher.
T-shirt: “Wait a second sir, my favorite player is JIm Abbott, I can throw left-handed too, just like him.”
Abbot was born without a right hand. This kid turned his right hand into a stump, placed it on his glove, performed the exchange of glove to the left hand perfectly (“he did the exchange as well than Abbott,” said Byckowski.
He topped out at 45 MPH, “so with a 47 right-handed and 45 from the left side, in the end we had a pitcher threw 92 MPH,” said Byckowski.
“I was in tears watching this, but Jim was professional. Finally Rids said ‘thank you very much for coming son,’” said Byckowski.
At the same time, Nick Noonan and Ed Heather had guys running the 60s in right field. A player stepped in a sink hole and went down like he was shot, so he was running on his knees.
“C’mon guys this is not funny,” Noonan said barely moving his lips.
Said Byckowski: “I was like the kid in church giggling when he shouldn’t be giggling.”
Then in 1999 the Jays caravan made a stopover in Edmonton. Ed Sprague and Duane Ward were on tour. Byckowski was there along with scouts Don Cowan (Vancouver BC), Rod Jarvis (Calgary, Alta.), Byckowski and Ridley.
They told Ridley that a few Edmonton high schoolers were going to throw. Included amongst the group were second-year pros RHP Travis Hubbell (Edmonton, Alta.) and LHP Mark Curtis (Edmonton, Alta.) fresh from their second pro season in the Jays system.
At the time Ridley only scouted Ontario so he’d seen neither.
“We asked Jim what he thought ... Hubbell was throwing 93, Curtis is real smooth, Jim is watching them like they are Alberta high schoolers,” Byckowski said. “Finally, he caught us laughing.”
Ridley’s all-time stash of cowboy hats consisted of two. He bought the first famed cowboy hat when Team Canada was in Australia and years later while packing up the car in a rush left it on the roof of the car as he drove off to catch a plane.
“And it wasn’t there when I reached the airport, what do you think would happen the speed I drive,” Ridley answered a joker.
Byckowski remembered Ridley as being devastated ... “like he’d lost his best friend.”
Ridely emailed Australia for a replacement lid and all was well in the head gear department again.
While Ridley was pro on the field he was a meticulous note keeper off the field, crossing the ‘T’ and dotting every ‘I.’
In 2007, Byckowksi, now with the Cincinnati Reds, phoned Ridley, now with the Twins on draft day.
“Hey Rids, can you help me out, we drafted this guy can you give me some help with his phone number,” Byckowski said. “I had the number, but Rids would have the phone number, the social insurance number and a copy of the birth certificate.”
The player was RHP Kyle Lotzkar (Tsawwassen, BC) who went 53rd over-all in North America.
“I did the same Jordan Wideman. “We’d just got this guy’ Jim would be speechless, you could smell smoke coming out of his hears.”
The procession was long into the hospital in Burlington for the past month since Ridley’s first surgery.
Long-time friend Margaret Voucher (Burlington, Ont.) told the story of a 20-something tall, lanky pitcher coming in and sitting beside a sleeping Ridley and whispering “thank you Mr. Ridley.” Then, he sat there sobbing.
“He was like my big brother,” Byckowski said. “As a coach he never lectured you, how you shouldn’t do this, you have to do this. He never did intimidating speeches, he was always philosophical.”
With the Twins, Ridley signed UBC OF Mark Zamojc (Burlington, Ont.), OF Rene Tosoni (Port Cotquilam BC) and INF Jonathan Waltenbury (Whitby, Ont.). Ridley took over scouting Canada and the eastern US for Howie Norsetter, who signed 3B Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.) and 1B Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) among others.
With the Jays Ridley signed LHP Clint Lawrence (Oakville, Ont.), RHP John Ogiltree (Mississauga, Ont.), LHP Sean Grimes (London, Ont.) C David Corrente Chatham, Ont.) and C Alex Blackburn (London. Ont.) among others. Jays farm director Bob Nelson (East York, Ont.) and Ridley combined -- back in pre-draft days -- not only to sign LHP Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, BC), who pitched in the majors but spirited him off the field at the Canada Summer Games and registered him under an assumed name while three other teams scoured the city looking to sign Spoljaric.
My favorite Rids story ... about 12 years ago on a September Sunday night I headed to Oakville after finishing covering the Jays game at the SkyDome. The Cannon Cup was on and while it had rained there might be a game.
Pulling in a couple of minutes ahead of me was Rids. No one was on the main diamond. Rids said he would check at the canteen to see what the draw read.
“They’ve moved it to another park Bobby, we’re in luck, we’re going to see a game after all,” Rids said and off we went headed to the parking lot past another small diamond where tyke players were playing. As we passed the back stop a boy struck out with men on second and third and headed to the bench head down.
“Come here son,” said Rids.
He then gave him a two-minute, 1-on-1 hitting instruction, ending only when the inning did. Rids tapped him on the helmet and said “now let’s see a line drive next time up -- you’re fixed.”
The boy headed back to the bench with the swagger and confidence of a big leaguer.
“Rids,” I asked, “who was that boy? A son of some guy you used to coach?”
“Naw Bobby, just some buy who USED to have a hitch,” Rids said. “Now, let’s get moving, we have to get to that other park.”
None of the scouts let go by the Jays in 2002-03 took the news harder than Ridley.
Once at 9th Line in Mississauga after years after he had been fired by the Jays and was now employ of the Twins, I headed to the other diamond and then returned to where the scouts were.
“So are we winning?” Ridley asked.
“Didn’t you go to the car to check the score in the Blue Jays game?”
Two years after being fired and the Blue Jays were still “we” to Jim Ridley.
On Thursday afternoon three Jays employees visited Ridley 19 hours before he passed.
Farewell old pal ...
I am so saddened by your article regarding Jim Ridley. Jim is and always will be the most important baseball man in my life. First he gave me the opportunity to play in the Olympics when I was only 18 and secondly he was always supportive of me during my struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. His calming way of coaching and his way of just talking baseball and about life kept me able to play on the field when I was so young and still didn’t even know what was wrong with me. He taught me how to play the outfield how to go first to third, how to hit to the opposite field and how after my first tryout for the junior national team he was the first to tell me I would play major league baseball. I cannot express to you how much and how proud I talk about Jimmy to the kids I coach now. I try hard to be like him as a coach and be as understanding and sympathetic human being to people I come across in the baseball world. I wish he was my coach my whole life because I know that whenever I was struggling the most he would have helped me get through it like he did when I was his centre fielder.
I don’t think enough of Canada knows his importance to the lives of almost every Canadian who first came up to big leagues from the ‘80s to now. And who played for him when he was their coach for the National Team. He was my dad away from home and I will miss him very much
Rob Butler Home Run Baseball Academy
Jim passed away about 10 this morning
Thanks to you I had the opportunity of visiting my friend of 55 years Wednesday night. I arrived at the hospital about 6:45 and the nurses let me stay till 9:15. I got to Jim’s room about 10 minutes after Pat Gillick’s phone call. Jim and I had a great visit and it was very clear how proud he was of his children and grandchildren.
Thank you for making this possible.
Doug Coombs Etobicoke, Ont.
Jim was a dedicated person as a teacher and was a dedicated person to the game of baseball. He was loyal, very loyal. You could rely on him. He was very, very consistent from the day I met him until the last time I saw him in January.
Pat Gillick Former Jays GM, special advisor to the Philadelphia Phillies. Seattle, Wash.
Some days are better than others in baseball. This is as bad as it gets Bob. He was a great guy.
Ray Carter President Baseball Canada Delta, B.C.
Jimmy came to me in 1961 as a 16 year old from the Lakeshore. He and fellow Mimicoite Dave Smyth wanted to play junior ball though they were both midget age. I was in my first year managing for Carmen Bush’s Columbus Boys at the Pits. It was obvious from the get-go that Jimmy was a gifted athlete who could play anywhere. He could do it all -- hit, run, field (great arm) etc., so I put him in centre field where he played the shortest outfield I have ever seen. Even though we had three midgets in the starting line up we won the city championship and repeated the next year.
At Mimico High where I now taught Latin, I saw what a gifted athlete Jim was excelling in both basketball and football. Sadly he was rushed into Junior B hockey too fast (15) and quit after one year. He gave his goalie pads to his buddy who lived behind him, Al Smith who went on to a 15 year pro career! And as Al acknowledged, he had half Jim’s talent. A cautionary tale about rushing kids.
Soon, Jim signed pro and I visited him in Quebec and Sarasota. We never lost touch. I even did a reading at his wedding, buried his great parents with whom I lived and we saw each other often through the years. The last long conversation was in May when he called me from Montreal where he was scouting for the Twins. He was heartbroken that he could not get back for legendary umpire Archie French’s funeral,
Jimmy was a gifted ball player, a gentle soul and a real gentleman. Never heard him swear in all my years knowing him! He sure was the pride and joy of Jim and Verna’s life.
Ted Schmidt Scarborough, Ont.
I’m really sorry to hear that news.
During the early months of 2008, on a particularly miserable wintery day, Jim called me and asked if he could attend a Mets indoor workout that night to watch one of our pitchers throw his bullpen. He also asked if I could schedule the pitcher early in the rotation so he could make his way back home at a respectable hour. I agreed to both requests.
As promised, the pitcher Jim was there to see was up early in the session, and had completed his workout by 9:15 PM. Jim was still on hand at 11:15 PM. Instead of heading home early Jim stayed and worked with every Mets pitcher that evening, he just couldn’t tear himself away. He may have finished his baseball career as a scout, but Jim was really a coach & teacher at heart. If a player was willing to learn, Jim was willing to teach.
John Jepson GM Toronto Mets
Rids would come to Guelph every winter for the past three years and talk to ours kids and parents about what scouts look for and the draft process. Very animated and informative for all.
I think the coolest thing he ever told me was that when he had Larry Walker on the National Team, he was the best player at all eight positions.
Danny Thompson Coach Intercounty Terriers
We were shocked to hear of Jim’s passing today. Jim was a very special person to our family. He was a great believer in the depth of raw baseball talent in Canada. We spent many an afternoon in the stands of diamonds across Ontario when he was watching our son Matt play as a teenager. He was always a pleasure to share the game with and showed tremendous support for Matt and our family. I remember sitting in Sarnia shortly after the 2000 draft after the Jays had picked Matt as a pitcher. Jim almost had an apoplexy when he saw Matt behind the plate as High Park’s catcher that day! Matt was still of the frame of mind that he wanted to play every day but Jim convinced him that the roster contains more pitchers than position players in pro baseball! He’s still on the mound going after that dream so it must have been good advise.
Even though Matt didn’t sign that year with the Jays, he did the college route instead, Jim still followed Matt’s progress as time passed. He helped him believe that pro baseball was a realistic dream and he’s still pursuing it
As a teacher, Jim had great influence on many young people. As a baseball scout, he continued that molding and shaped many a young Ontarian’s life. We’ll always be grateful for having crossed paths with him. He’ll be sorely missed by so many. Our deepest sympathy go out to Pauline and his children. May God bless them in their time of sorrow.
Pat Kniginyzky Mother of RHP Matt Kniginyzky Pitcher of the Year, Single-A Wilmington Royals (Kansas City)
Jim is a longtime friend. He made a huge contribution to baseball in Canada and helped the Blue Jays establish roots across Canada. The results of his fine work, much of it done at the grass roots level, helped create a foundation for the success that so many Canadian players enjoy at all levels.
Paul Beeston Interim CEO Blue Jays
I will never forget Jim’s passion for baseball, it was infectious to all those around him. His energy to teach, to evaluate and to work with young players was truly special.
Jon Lalonde Director of Scouting Blue Jays
Rid always spoke highly of you. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him since 2003, especially the last three as we became very close.
I would like to tell you how special Rid was to many of us. He was the ultimate grinder. He loved his job and the Twins organization. Rid had tremendous passion for scouting. He was a true throwback and was greatly respected throughout the industry.
Last Sunday, I was fortunate enough to spend the day with Rid. A young fellow by the name of Tim Black stopped by to see him. When Tim asked Rid “what’s going on?” Rid replied ”facing a good curve ball, got to adjust, Tim, got to adjust.”
That was classic Ridley. I will miss him dearly.
Tim O’Neil Lexington, Ky. Scout Minnesota Twins
It’s tough to write right now, but I know you have a deadline. I guess I am the one responsible for bringing Rids to the Twins. We were already looking to hire somebody for Canada full time before my heart attack in 2002. The International scouting scene was taking up too much of my schedule. I felt like I couldn’t cover Canada the way it should be covered. I would see a couple of tournaments in the summer, identify a few players and then wheel in for a month before the draft and try to see as many of those players as possible.
I guess I had a bit of luck, but I can honestly say that by the time I got around to seeing my first player, Rids had already seen him a dozen times. He probably would have already worked him out. He would also know the kid’s family and friends, and know the prospect’s personality and makeup to an extent that Rids was prepared for the draft before I had even cleared Customs.
In the 90’s, the Blue Jays scouting in Canada always seemed a bit like the KGB. Except for Rids. He wouldn’t give anything away, but he was honest. He had integrity. If he told you something, you could believe it. He was a consummate baseball man. He was a tireless worker. He loved the game, and he loved the Jays, but he also loved the people associated with the game.
He spoke with the same voice to the Gord Ash, Pat Gillick and Cito Gastons of the world, as he would to fellow scouts, or the parents of the kid who batted ninth a bad midget team, or the volunteer who raked the mound at Christie Pits. He had a respect for baseball and a respect for people. To me, it seemed almost as if he was a guardian of the legacy of Bob Prentice. I observed these qualities up close. When the Jays decided to let him go, I was gobsmacked. On my preference list of scouts to take over Canada from me, he was on the top of the list. He was a perfect fit for the Twins. He already did it the Twins’ way. The Twins’ presence in Canada was assured because of Jim Ridley. I knew that when he came aboard, it would be a perfect match.
It’s funny. Back when Shayne and Jeremy were coming up through the system -- prospects in their own right -- Jim told me he had a dream that his boys were playing in the big leagues for the Twins. I asked him why not the Jays? “I don’t know, it’s the damndest thing?” Little did he know that he was the one who would end up working for the Twins.
I know that he loved working for the Twins -- and we loved working with him even more. Rids pulled me aside, more than once, to tell me how grateful and thankful he was to me personally. That meant more to me than I could express at the time, other than a mere “thanks Rids. Thank you for coming on board.”
I won’t be able to get back for the funeral, but my thoughts and prayers are for Jim and his family.
I’ll say it again, “Jim, thank you. Thank you for coming on board. I’m grateful, proud, and thankful, not for what you have done, but for who you are. Good on ya Mate.”
Howie Norsetter Australian Scout Minnesota Twins
My second year of pro ball in Medicine hat, Jim was a coach.
All the years I coached the provincial and national teams, Jim was someone who always took the time to help me when it came time to identify and evaluate players in competitions and camps. He always saw that little thing that we would miss that would make a difference. Jim was a great baseball man, very well respected in the province and country and he was always seen spending a little extra time with a player or coach at the end of the day talking “baseball”.
He will be greatly missed.
Remo Cardinale Mississauga North, Team Ontario Mississagua, Ont.
Thanks for keeping touch.
Sad news that Jim passed away this morning.
Quite amazing how many people he touched out here. I have received calls from a lot of players he helped inquiring about him over the last few weeks. He made a real difference in the lives of many. Not a claim that most can make.
Doug Mathieson Coach Langley Blaze Langley, BC
While aware of Jim Ridley as a cog in manager Jim Liness’ powerhouse IBL championship Leafs team in 1972, I never personally met Jim until the conclusion of the 2007 Canada Cup in Quebec.
I was in attendance observing my son Jake, the youngest and most frail looking member of Ontario’s entry, who, in spite of picking up the loss in his start against BC, was announced to play for the Canadian Junior National Team.
Upon leaving the venue, he sought me out, put a hand on my shoulder, and ... as if sensing my fear of things moving too fast for my young, son told me, “Not only will he be fine ... he deserves it.”
What a first impression. Just what this parent needed to hear.
I wish I’d have known this baseball intuitive better.
God bless you, Jim.
Jim Eliopoulos Newmarket, Ont.
This is really unfortunate as he was such a good baseball guy.
I remember when I was coaching the Windsor Selects Juveniles and Jim was coaching the National Junior team and they were having tryouts in the Toronto area. Because a team from Corunna that beat us in the final was found to have used an ineligible player the OBA ordered the final game replayed. As it turned out several of our best players were at the national team camp. We never expected them to be released but Jim allowed them to come to Sarnia and replay the final which we ended up winning handily. We then went on to win the National Juvenile championship. That probably never happened before then and it is unlikely that this scenario would ever be repeated -- in essence he was indirectly responsible for us winning that championship
Tough to believe that two virtual institutions in the Ontario coaching ranks could pass away within days of each other.
Marc Picard Team Ontario
I read your article, it was amazing and it made me cry,
I was just talking to Bill Byckowski and want you to know I am really sorry to hear about Jim, Bill tells me the e-mails are pouring in-that is fantastic, Jim sure had a true passion for the game we all love, although I didn’t know him all that well he will be sorely missed around the all Georgetown Eagles teams.
My son Jake thought he was a great man because like me he liked all his old-timey baseball sayings which we had never heard before.
Kelly Edwards Jake MacNeil’s Mom Georgetown, Ont.
Very sad indeed.
Jim played for Columbus Boys at Christie Pits while I was coaching Pape Playground in the east end.
I don’t believe that I ever saw him play. I can recall Carmen Bush talking about Jim and his parents. His mom was apparently an excellent softball player in the Sunnyside Ladies League.
I remember in 1985 or 1990 in Edmonton when Jim coached Canada and I was umpiring, we went to visit John Edgar who Jim had played with and I knew a bit as a very successful coach in Islington. Had a very enjoyable day.
Howie Birnie Leaside
Recent passings this past week
Randy Gumpert 90
Jim Ridley 64
Red Murff 87
A prayer for their souls and the souls of the faithful departed, may they rest in Peace.
Lenny Yochim Pittsburgh Pirates New Orleans, LA
When I think of Rids, the words loyalty and passionate baseball lifer come immediately to mind. He was uncompromisingly loyal and committed to the professional organizations he served so competently.
I will miss his encouraging words, insights and undying support for Canadian Baseball. He was a true friend to all who shared his love of the game.
Greg Hamilton Baseball Canada
I was very sorry to hear that Rid pasted away, I had lost touch with him since the change to the Blue Jays scouting, but one of the things that I remembered about Jimmy was how unselfish he was.
I had a gym in Oakville where Jim would work with my son on pitching mechanics during the winter and it gave Shayne and Jeremy a chance to set up a net and take some swings. Well one Friday the head coach and assistant coach from Western Michigan wanted to see Clint throw and it was snowing hard, and the gym we had was closed, no school, no gym. I arrange to use a indoor tennis court and had the coaches meet us there, but Jim said ‘I will there, I have a interest in Clint and I want to see what they see’. So through two feet of snow on a Friday evening Jimmy drove for almost two hours to be there.
One of the main reasons my son signed with the Blue Jays was because of Jim, he was very endearing, very likeable and was a great source of baseball knowledge. On Jim’s passing the baseball world has lost a Great one and he will be sorrily missed.
To Jeremy, Shayne and Shannon our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Don Lawrence father of Clint Lawrence
As I sit and write this I think that this may be for your eyes only, I am perfectly okay with that.
I ask you to try this the next time you are at a baseball park or a shopping mall.
Look around at those near you and think of a person in attendance that educates our youth.
Then imagine a person with such national pride that he/she would spend weeks upon weeks away from home to wear a Maple Leaf on his chest.
I would ask you then to try to find just one person who showed the same exuberance for speaking to a 9 year old that he/she did in speaking to a 99 year old.
Now try to find a person that can entertain you and be serious in the same sentence.
Are the answers to the above tasks the same person?
My answers are the same.
The answer to all these tasks in my eyes is, Rid.
All of us will miss Jim dearly for different reasons, but all of us can be proud to call him friend.
(P.S. Posting of this would be fine.)
Schroeder Nicholls Hamilton, Ont.
I was devastated to hear the news from my brother Matt that Mr. Ridley had passed away. I had the pleasure of knowing Jim through the Cardinal Baseball clinics in Hamilton. Mr. Ridley instructed me for several years and it was a joy to eventually volunteer and work alongside him at the clinics.
I owe nearly everything I know about teaching baseball to kids to Jim. As an instructor, he was the best. He always had the time to work with me and to help me out with any mechanical problems I had been having and he could fix whatever I was doing wrong in a matter of seconds.
I will miss Jim and talking to him about the happenings in Canadian and professional baseball and will miss hearing him share his stories from his illustrious baseball life.
We are all fortunate to have known Jim and to have learned from him. We lost a great one.
Mike Fortuna Hamilton
I received your article on Jim & passed it along to our entire minor league & scouting departments. Very touching; you can tell how loved Jim was by the people he touched.
Thanks for taking the time to honor a man that was always willing to give back.
Terry Ryan Minnesota Twins
Thanks for the update.
I’ve been thinking about Rids for the last few days. When I played, he would come and scout our games and you felt like the Jays were there to see you. At that time Jim Ridley was the face of the Toronto Blue Jays when it came to Amateur Baseball. The sad part is that I joined the Jays as a Scout a couple of years after he was let go. While I know that he was bitter about being let go, he always had the time to talk to me or tell me a story. The MLB Bureau Camps will not be the same without him.
Sorry for the story telling, but I had to get it off my chest.
John Milton Toronto Blue Jays
Jim is very special to us. We remember meeting Rid 8 years ago ... he had a way of making every kid in that gym feel confident and willing to learn. Our son Brad has always looked up to him as his mentor. As parents, he taught us how to be patient and supportive. There are a lot of things in the world of baseball that we don’t know, but whenever we needed the facts, we’d call Rid.
We’ll always be grateful for everything he’s done and will miss him very much. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family.
The Furdal Family Ancaster, Ont.
Very sorry to hear the passing of a great Canadian legend. He had done so much for Canadian players, coaches as well as Canadian baseball. Truly a great friend, father and human being who will be missed by all.
Tony Patzalek Burlington, Ont.
I just wanted to say how much of an effect Jim had on our family. 1n 1987, at the OBA midget eliminations, Jim came to watch our team play and to talk to Father Cullen, our manager. He noticed my brother Raymond and after his performance suggested to us that he should attend the NBI in Surrey the following year.
Jim set up the contact with John Haar and Raymond spent three great years there where he flourished. When Jim’s sons were at Ball State, he would sometimes pick them up in Detroit and I would look forward to the phone calls as he was driving down and how much Jim ‘revelled’ at driving through downtown Detroit to pick up Shayne & Jeremy.
This past June in Guelph at the Youth team tryouts was the last time I saw Jim and I was glad that I got to spend a few minutes with him.
What a good man.
Richard Solomon Windsor, Ont.
The first time I met Jim Ridley was in 1979 in Medicine Hat, Alberta as a fellow coach, for John McLaren the manager of the Hat.
The last time I got to see the Riddler was last May at Xavier University in Cincinnati. We got rained out that day and I only got to talk to Jim for a short time and at this time I feel somewhat cheated, but at the same time I appreciate my times with Jim.
I feel fortunate to have worked with and along with Jim for 25+ yrs and fondly remember his energy, style, and his absolute love for baseball, his country and his tremendous love and loyalty for the Toronto Blue Jays.
I certainly will miss Jim and remember him very fondly.
Tim Wilken Scouting Director Chicago Cubs
Check out the Canadian Travellers web site.
I put up a little tribute to Jim.
Craig Bedford Burlington, Ont. Coach, Canadian Travellers
Thank you very much for the series of updates on Jim Ridley that you have forwarded to Terry Ryan in the past week. Terry has shared them with the Twins front office and the scouting staff.
Jim was a highly valued member of our organization, both for his scouting acumen and also for his spirit and personality. Your articles in the past week have been wonderful reading and your friendship with him was a special one.
Again, although the ultimate news was sad, thank you for sharing and for letting all of Canada know how special Jim Ridley was.
Bill Smith General Manager Minnesota Twins
What a nice tribute to Rid. Jim and I worked together when I was scouting for the Twins. He talked some about his past, but now it really comes to light what a special person he was. You will never meet a man that was so humble. He had such a great passion for the game. When around him, he always had a way to put a smile on your face.
Joel Lepel Minor league Field Coordinator Minnesota Twins
l was quite saddened to hear about the passing of Jim Ridley. l have wonderful memories of Jim, not only on the field, but off it as well. Thirty-five years ago, l was a kid in Oakville trying to go somewhere in the game of baseball. l was introduced to Jim Ridley, who happened to be the player/manager of Stratford in the senior intercounty league.
We drove to every game together that summer in his, ‘old yellow chevy baseball car’ as he would say. He made me drive ... while he napped, but mostly, we talked baseball. His influence and endless hours of work on the field, helped me take the next step with his boss, Bobby Prentice.
l’ll always be grateful and remember him with great fondness.
‘R. l. P.’ RlD,
Greg Darichuk Oakville
With the passing of Jim Ridley it might be time to remind fans what happened to Toronto’s scouts in 2002 and those who ran the scouting dept.
I knew Rids but not as well as I know some of the other guys a little better. I remember the hat and him joking with the grounds keeper in Welland.
Dan Mendham London, Ont. MLB Scouting Bureau
We are sorry to here about Jim Ridley death, would you know the funeral or viewing times.
Paul Pelfrey Boston Red Sox
Thanks for all the updates on Jim, he was a true baseball lifer and always willing to help and go the extra mile, his passion for the game is what I will remember and also the way he always treated me with respect, I would like to extend my sympathy to his children and let them know that Jim touched people from all over Canada
Alex Agostino Baseball Quebec Scout, Philadelphia Phillies
Thanks for letting me know of Jim’s passing. I always enjoyed spending time with Jim as he was a great story teller. No one was more supportive during the tough times than Jim. Jim would call on a regular basis to “check in” but many times it was to be encouraging and supportive of what we were trying to accomplish. He cared deeply about Baseball in Canada and we are all the better for what he was able to accomplish.
Gord Ash Assistant GM Milwaukee Brewers
I have two fond memories of Jim Ridley. The first was when Jim was an assistant coach with the 2007 Georgetown Eagles and they were playing a game during the peewee elimination tournament. Rids lit up a smoke in the dugout when the kids had taken the field. The ump yelled over to him to take his smoke behind the dugout. I was standing behind the dugout at the time and Jim looked at me and mumbled under his breath, “I guess I’m not allowed to have a beer either”!
The second was that same year at the Canadian nationals in Quebec City and a few of us were driving up to the university residences where the players were staying. Rids was on the cell phone with me and said I was very close and to look for him near the building. As I drove along the street, Jim bolted from the building onto the street to get my attention. He almost became my new hood ornament.
Both my son and I will miss him dearly.
John Anderson (father of Adam) Georgetown Eagles Glen Williams, Ont.
I brought Jim to Guelph in the mid 1970s to play and manage the Guelph Forums of the major Intercounty league.
Jim managed and played centre field while I played first base in those days.
He was so full of energy and helped bring in very good imports from the Us college ranks.
Although we never won a championship during his years in Guelph, we did get to the finals at least once as I recall.
Rid had many pre-game superstitions including the order in which he got dressed, but the one I remember the best was him having to play one handed pepper just before game time. This was not negotiable and he would often stand by the old third base bleachers, bat in hand with a couple of balls waiting for one of us to show up and toss him the balls.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Jim for over 30 years and as of late I see him regularly as he scouts Canada’s Junior National team in Orlando, Fla.
Always with his large brimmed straw hat and a welcoming smile as he makes note, completes charts and studies the new young talent.
Rid was truly our own special Mr. Baseball in every sense of the word.
He will be sadly missed by all who had ever come in contact with him.
I am grateful to have known him and to call him a friend.
Larry Pearson Guelph, Ont.
Jim was not only a quality scout he was a quality person.
He will be missed.
Chris Buckley Director of Scouting Cincinnati Reds
You know that a man has lived a good life when he leaves the world a better place than when he came into it. That is the perfect statement for Jim’s life.
He has taught our boys at baseball every winter for the last probably 6 or 7 years. And what an amazing teacher! Our boys have 2 totally different personalities, and he knew just how to talk to each one. He knew how to inspire and he knew when someone needed a little extra coaxing. He was the ultimate teacher. He was patient, encouraging and honest in the most gentle way.
His teaching left the boys more confident not just in baseball, but in life ... and oh how they looked forward to seeing him every weekend. They knew he would “fix” their mechanics ... he made them better people, not just better ball players.
We also would like to send out heartfelt hugs and prayers for his family. Jim would update us every winter on what the twins and his daughter were doing and where they were living. He loved his family and was so proud of them. Thank you for sharing a little piece of father and husband with us. He was a wonderful man.
Our family will miss Jim terribly, but are so blessed to have met him. His goodness, patience and honesty will live on in our children. They have met the perfect teacher!
Dave, Jill, Dexter and Ben Souter Dunnville, Ont.
My condolences to the family of Jim Ridley. Canadian baseball has lost a great one. A man of true professionalism, integrity and loyalty. A man that had the never ending love and passion for this great game.
Jim was one of the best, an unsung hero that lived for baseball. Jim, you were a great inspiration to myself and countless others in the pursuit of success. You have helped to mould many baseball minds in this country. Thanks to you we are all better.
Whether scouting or coaching, he always had the time or made the time, it didn’t matter who you were, what uniform you had on or what hat you were wearing that day. Thanks for sharing with all of us, you will be remembered and sadly missed.
After re-reading this, I thought of many words to describe Rids: tireless, communicator, caring, genuine, hard working, dedicated, etc. He. was all that and more. I remember talking at length with him two years ago at the Pits when Jeremy was playing for Toronto. He came early -- he was only there to watch, but he always came early -- and I met him going into the clubhouse. We spent 20 minutes talking about the league, the series, and the changes to our organization. He was all about praise and honesty, he was a man without a hidden agenda.
Rids was my coach in the 1988 Olympics and 1991 at the Pan Am Games ... He made me feel good about being a player and he made me feel pretty good that day. Thanks for letting me remember Jim.
Rick Johnston The Baseball Zone (Former National Team player)
(A note that was sent to the Cardinal Baseball School inbox)
We would like to express our sincere sadness regarding Jim Ridley’s passing. He was and will remain a great mentor for Garnet. Every time Garnet came into that gym to throw he felt successful and inspired. He was one person who knew how to connect with youth and always showed them kindness and patience.
Garnet had much admiration for the man not only as his obvious skills in baseball but also as a mentor. His enthusiasm and laughter was always enjoyed on a early Sunday morning.
He even stopped to help our daughter Gwen with her French homework that she was struggling with!
He will remain in our hearts as a great man who will be missed by our entire family.
Rest in peace Mr. Ridley,
Mark, Teresa, Garnet and Gwen Henrich
I was very sorry to read about Jim’s passing. A tough time for both his family and friends.
See you soon.
Steve Mcallister Yahoo Canada
I’d like to pay tribute to Jim as a honest and decent man. He truly loved baseball and kids. He was always positive in the ballpark, and you knew there was no other place he’d rather be. Canadian baseball has lost a great supporter.
Dale H. Tilleman
I played against Rid in the Quebec League in ‘66 and with him on the ‘72 Leaf club. He was a pure hitter and was a real student at the plate, not to mention his defensive qualities in center field.
Simple things, at the plate, like remembering the pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses, watching the opposing pitchers when your sitting in the dugout waiting for your turn. I was amazed at the way he could set up the pitchers, to throw a pitch that he knew was coming. Even at that time in my career, I was willing to listen and learn from Rid.
We didn’t always agree, but we had a great time, especially when I was a coach, in ‘85, on the Canadian Youth Club when he was the field manager, organizing the workout times, places and taking charge with the meal monies, etc. for the pre-tournament camps. It was a hectic pace at times, but it was all worthwhile in the end.
I didn’t see him much the last few years but I really enjoyed the good ol’ days and he was a big part of them.
He will be missed but not forgotten.
Thank you so much for your article on Jim Ridley.
I played baseball for Oakville growing up, with Clint Lawrence one of the players Jim signed. I also played on some travelling teams with his twin boys Jeremy and Shane.
I have lost touch with all of them over the last 15 years. Please send my best wishes to the Ridley family.
Jason Lee Catcher, Oakville A’s, COBA All-stars, Ontario Travelling team, and the Hamilton Red Birds Junior Team. Account Executive Zerofootprint Software Inc.
Rid and I did a lot of camps together - especially after Bobby Prentice got sick. I’ll never forget when he called me from Utica in 2002 to pass along the news the J.P. Ricciardi decided to discontinue Canadian scouting. I think he was in shock that the team did nixed him by phone.
Duncan MacDonald Former Blue Jays scout
I have been reading all of these tributes about Jim and I am amazed and proud to have known him. I was not a baseball prospect or a sports superstar. I was a kid in grades 7 and 8 at Stewarttown Senior Public School who as a mixed up kid was wondering aimlessly through life.
Jim gave me perspective and will remain my favorite teacher of all time. He gave me strength and pride in who I was.
I will remember in class how we would get Jim talking about the Jays or just baseball in general and the class was done, we loved his story’s.
So while a lot of these tributes are abut Jim the baseball person.
I will remember Jim the teacher, the human being that gave so much to this world.
Jim you will be greatly missed.
Greg Ferguson Acton, Ont.
Hello everyone. It is never easy to lose a loved one and this time I share the pain with you all. I was truly shocked to hear of Jim’s passing the other day. Jim had coached me in 1987 on Team Canada’s youth team where he led us to the bronze medal. That was a long time ago, but what he taught me certainly helped. He played a big part of me getting started in professional baseball. Every once in a while when I would bump into him, he would always have a good story to tell about our 1987 team in Windsor and other baseball experiences.
Jim taught me a lot about the game and I will never forget the times that we spent talking and laughing. He will be greatly missed. My family and I send our sincerest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Nigel Wilson Former Florida Marlin
Dear Mr Elliott
I was so saddened to learn about the passing of Mr. Ridley.
My mom gave me the article that you wrote in Nov. 25th edition of the Toronto Sun about him, and it brought back such a flood of memories about him.
He was a teacher of mine at Stewarttown Senior Public school in the early 80’s. He was also my track and field coach as well.
He truly was a man with a great passion for life, and the sport of baseball. I can remember him coming to school in his Blue Jays jacket, and shirt on. He always had an encouraging word for anyone ... it did not matter if you came in first or last, he was always positive and supportive of all!
I know he was one of the most popular teachers at the school in my time.
I spoke with his ex-wife a couple of years ago, (she was my grade 9 art teacher), before she moved out east, and she filled me in on where he was and what he was doing.
I will always think of him with great fondness, and Canada has truly lost a great sports hero!
Unfortunate to see you again, because of Popa Rid’s passing.
January is going to be weird this year.
Popa Rid is how I always knew it was the start of a new year and upcoming season. For the last five years he has always been the first scout to come to clubhouse and we would sit and chat for hours.
Damon Topolie Ontario Blue Jays
Rid would appreciate this. Everyone that attends the school and have in the past have a great admiration and fond memories of Jimmy.
Your site has been wonderful and very therapeutic for some of us.
Robyn White Cardinals Baseball School
Class, integrity and a wealth of knowledge is what Jim Ridley stood for. We mourn the loss of a “Baseball legend” when we lost Jim.
Always first to the park and last to leave, he fit the mold of a typical Minnesota Twins scout. He put in the time to gather all the needed information to make informed decisions. He worked hard and played hard. Jim shared some of the most incredible baseball stories ever told. He could always relate a current situation to a story from the past.
Sharing a meal with Jim was like “Dinner and A Movie” because of the great stories he told. It was a privilege and honor to work with Jim Ridley.
Although his friends will miss his classic hat and positive outlook towards the future, his stories and legend of Jim Ridley will continue through time.
Just heard about Jim Ridley’s passing.
He was a coach under John McLaren in the “Hat” when I met him, 1978.
I remember the day John Introduced him. I was sitting with Bob Oravec, Remo Cardinale and Lloyd Moseby, if memory serves.
Jim was talking in classic baseball terminology, like describing home plate as “the dish“ and how we should wear this uniform with pride ... It was an wonderful moment in time for me and remains a lasting memory of a great baseball man.
Paul Hodgson Former Toronto Blue Jay
Shi Davidi of the Canadian Press, The Stratford Beacon Hearld, The Burlington Post, Baseball Canada Tribute, The Milton Canadian Champion, The Georgetown Independent Free Press, The Minnesota Twins’ web site, Seth Stohs Speaks on Sports also wrote tributes on Ridley.