Padres announce scholarship honoring Johnny Ritchey and Jackie Robinson

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Padres Monday evening introduced the Johnny Ritchey Breaking Barriers scholarship which will be awarded annually to a high school senior from an underserved area.

The scholarship honors the catcher who broke the Pacific Coast League’s color line with the Padres in 1948. A bust of Ritchey and plaque honoring him as “The Jackie Robinson of the Pacific Coast League” is in The Draft at Petco Park.

The plaque includes a quote from Ritchie: “It was a thrill to play for the Padres. The fans cheered and my feeling was it was because I was a San Diego boy making good. It had nothing to do with race.”

The announcement at home plate at Petco Park before the Padres 5-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies came in connection with the celebration throughout Major League Baseball of the 72nd anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color line.

Ritchey was born and raised in San Diego and graduated from San Diego High School. He was a star member of the Post 6 American Legion baseball team, but was not allowed to play in national championships held in the south because of laws forbidding integrated athletic competitions.

Ritchey also played at the then-San Diego State College. Ritchey’s time in college was interrupted by serving in the U.S. Army for 27 months during World War II in a combat engineering unit, seeing service at the invasion of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and in the Philippines, rising to the rank of staff sergeant.

Ritchey returned to San Diego State following the war and was the Aztecs leading hitter in 1946 with a .356 average. He began his professional career in 1947 with the Chicago American Giants, leading the Negro American League with a .381 batting average.

Ritchey batted .323 as a rookie with the Padres in 1948, one year after Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Ritchey also played with the Padres in 1949. He played with three other PCL teams, the Vancouver Capilanos of the Western International League and the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League during his nine-season career in organized baseball which ended in 1956.

Ritchey died in 2003 in Chula Vista at the age of 80.

Categories: Good Morning San Diego, Local San Diego News