There were not many baseball games played around Trenton or Clinton County in recent decades that did not include the presence of Rich Ritzheimer.
"There's not a kid that went through Wesclin High School in the last 35 or 40 years that wasn't affected by him in one way or another," Tom Ritzheimer said of his father, Rich, who died Tuesday at age 81 after dealing with bone cancer and other medical issues. "It was part of his life. From the time he started coaching and teaching until yesterday, that was part of his life. That was him. Everybody knew him."
Rich Ritzheimer was a standout baseball and basketball player at Aviston High School and later Quincy College, who wound up being inducted into that university's Athletic Hall of Fame.
He played in the Brooklyn Dodgers' minor-league system for two years in the 1950s, also serving in the U.S. Army during that time.
Ritzheimer also was one of the founders of the Trenton Post 778 American Legion baseball program in 1977 and served as its first manager. He is a member of the Clinton County Baseball League Hall of Fame and was still playing for the Trenton Mains Vintage Base Ball team in 2004 at age 73.
Tom Ritzheimer said his father battled hard right until the end, comparing the struggle to a hitter facing an ace pitcher with the game on the line.
"He fouled off a lot of good pitches for the last few months, but he went down swinging yesterday," Tom Ritzheimer said. "He gave it all he had and battled it hard there since August. There's nothing to be sad about, but a lot to be glad about.
"I wasn't around when he was in his prime, but from all the stories I've heard he was pretty good."
Visitation will be held at St. Mary Catholic Church in Trenton from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, followed by a funeral mass at noon.
From 1956 to 1973, Ritzheimer served as a history teacher, baseball and basketball coach, athletic director and principal at Wesclin High School. He also was principal and superintendent at St. Rose Grade School from 1973 to 1988, eventually retiring after 32 years in the Clinton County education system.
Per his wishes, Ritzheimer's body will be donated to science.
"He's even going to be educating people after his death," Tom Ritzheimer said.
Ritzheimer also served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Ohio when he met his future wife, Joanne. She died in 2011.
Rich Ritzheimer had two sons, Tom Ritzheimer, of Trenton, and Dan Ritzheimer, of Edwardsville. He is also survived by four grandchildren, a sister and three brothers.
Jason Satterfield served as Trenton Legion manager from 1998 to 2008 and coached both of Rich Ritzheimer's grandsons.
"He was a legend," Satterfield said. "He was an icon. I started playing County League baseball when I was 15 and Tom was still playing then, so those guys were still talking about Mr. Ritzheimer all the time.
"He was always Mr. Ritzheimer, never Rich. That's the kind of man he was, he was respected by everyone. You knew the stories, you knew what he did -- and he was always there to talk."
Many days, Ritzheimer held court beneath a shade tree down the left-field line at Trenton's ballpark.
"He knew every kid on the team somehow," Satterfield said. "You'd go to a game anywhere and you'd see him. He just loved baseball."