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Ridenour's first pitch throws back to Hagerstown's first pitch at Series

August 20, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - The last person who knew Harold Ridenour would throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Federal's final pool play game at the Little League World Series on Tuesday night was Harold Ridenour.

The manager who led the 1950 National Little League team to the Series - the first of three trips by Hagerstown teams to Little League's grandest stage - found out about the honor during a car ride to South Williamsport with his sister, Carolyn, and her son, Jack Hill.

"When he flew in from Orlando and I met him at the airport, he was unaware he was coming here," Hill said. "He thought he was just coming to Hagerstown. We're riding in the car and I showed him the article in (Tuesday's Herald-Mail) about Federal and I said, 'You know, they're playing at 8 tonight and guess who's throwing out the first pitch?' He said, 'Who?' and I said, 'You are,' and he said, 'You're kidding.'"

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"I was really happy about this," said Ridenour, 90, who moved to Florida in 1953. "I've been wanting to do this for six or seven years."

Ridenour was instrumental in Little League baseball coming to Hagerstown in 1946. He coached Little League in Hagerstown and Florida for 25 years.

The 1950 National team was his best - led by a pair of "giants" in Charles Barnes and Ken Dudley, who each pitched and caught, often for each other.

"We had two what they called 'giants' playing for us. The headline in the (Williamsport) paper was, 'Giants invade Little League field,'" Ridenour said. "It was the first time we really got excited about having a team that might be able to play baseball."

Barnes pitched a three-hit shutout in National's 4-0 victory over Punxsutawney, Pa., in the first round of what was then a single-elimination tournament. National lost 6-2 to Bridgeport, Conn., in the next round and finished fourth.

Ridenour made his coaching philosophy clear to the players and the parents right from the start.

"The way I started that year, when I picked my players, I had them out on the field and I told them I'd teach them how to play baseball, how to win, how to lose and how to be courteous and kind," Ridenour said. "Beyond that, I told the children to go home and tell their parents to meet me at the field for the next practice. I didn't want the kids there, just the parents.

"I told them the same thing I told the kids, and I told them I didn't want them out there hollering at the kids if they made a mistake, and if they did holler at umpires or managers, I would have to expel their boy. It worked. I had very good luck with my kids, and they became friends and pretty good players."

National also reached the Little League World Series in 1968, the last time a Hagerstown team made it until Federal this year.

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