As he reflects back on his time as an athlete leading to an impending induction into a Hall of Fame, Todd Ritchie says it was all about friendships.
Ritchie will enter the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2012 on June 9 in Marietta. The MOV Hall encompasses seven counties (Jackson, Wood, Wirt, Ritchie and Pleasants in West Virginia along with Washington and Noble in Ohio). He will go into the latest class (the first was in 1998) with another former Ravenswood High standout Paul Fletcher. The induction banquet will be inside Marietta’s Comfort Inn. Enshrinement will be the following day, June 10, at Vienna’s Grand Central Mall.
In 1975, Ritchie graduated from Ravenswood and left quite a legacy as a three-sport standout.
“To me it was just a game(s) played with a bunch of friends,” said Ritchie. “Friends I had grown up with ever since I was a little guy.”
As an athlete, Ritchie enjoyed success, both from a team standpoint and individually.
In the fall of 1974, he engineered the Red Devil football team to a perfect 10-0 season. It was Ravenswood’s first year at the Class AAA level and the Devils reached the postseason playoffs. Ritchie was the Red Devil quarterback his final two seasons at Ravenswood in addition to starting at defensive back.
“When you play with guys like Alan Hall, Joe Jelich, Jeff Harless, Cub Curry, Bryan Canterbury and those guys (success wasn’t a surprise),” said Ritchie. “It was just a good bunch of people to be around. We had fun.”
Ritchie credits the great Joe Fox for helping to prepare him for his football leadership role in the seasons of 1973 and 1974. Fox was the quarterback on the Class AA state championship team of 1972 when Ritchie was a sophomore. “I grew up playing in the backyard with him,” said Ritchie, who grew up on Sand Street while Fox lived at nearby Ann Street. “Joe was a good enough guy that when I got some practice time he would come over and coach me. It was like you were playing amongst friends.”
Fox left Ravenswood and spent time in Marshall’s football program following the tragic plane crash.
In the AAA playoff semifinals of 1974, Ravenswood lost to eventual champion Stonewall Jackson, 22-3, at Laidley Field in Charleston. “Stonewall was a formidable team. They had several players who went to college and, of course, Walt Easley (a future Mountaineer fullback and linebacker) went to the pros (San Francisco 49ers).”
The loss was tough to take for Ritchie and his senior teammates. It brought to an end a year of glory and it closed out their time not only together as a unit but with a likeable coaching staff. “Fred Taylor, Dick Sturm, Coach (Jim) Bailey, Coach (Austin) Boswell, they loved to be around us and we loved to be around them,” said Ritchie, who garnered several postseason honors following his senior year.
Like many youngsters in the Ohio River town, Ritchie’s time on the football field started with the old Ravenswood Midget League that featured the Colts (his team), Browns, Cardinals and Rams. “The Midget League coaches we had were so dedicated. It was just a community that developed people and developed kids. It was a great experience.”
Ritchie also excelled in basketball. He was a three-year starter for Jack Wiseman. “My fifth grade homeroom teacher was Judy (Jack’s wife). I started hanging around the gym as a manager working for him. I knew him before I started playing for him,” said Ritchie, who averaged a double-double as a senior and earned All-Little Kanawha Conference honors. “He was the kind of basketball coach that you really wanted to play for. He was a great mentor and remains a really great friend, both he and Judy.”
He also competed in track and field under Wiseman’s guidance as a hurdler and high jumper. He placed at the State Meet in the high hurdles, shuttle hurdle relay and high jump as a senior.
Ritchie earned a football scholarship to WVU and was on the final team guided by Bobby Bowden (1975) and the first for Frank Cignetti (1976). “Coach Bowden was the same guy you see in TV interviews, just a great guy and Frank Cignetti was just a class act,” said Ritchie, whose career as a defensive back was cut short due to a knee injury coupled with a tough academic load in engineering.
Ritchie, who works for SDR Plastics, says this high honor triggers wonderful memories of his time as a teenager and young adult.
“We really had fun. Fun with teammates and people I remain friends with. To be honest with you, I was really flattered (of the MOV Hall honor) and this was really unexpected,” said Ritchie. “It was a humbling moment to think that people would think that of me.”
When one looks back in the rearview mirror and sees the athletic career of Todd Ritchie, it’s easy to understand why he will enter the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame. He was, after all, one of Ravenswood’s very best in not one, not two but three sports.