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Richie Zisk

Sport: Baseball

Born: February 6, 1949

Town: Parsipanny

Richard Walter Zisk was born February 6, 1949 in Brooklyn and grew up in Parsipanny. Richie was a power-hitting outfielder who became the sophomore star of the Parsipanny High Redskins, along with Harold Burke and Larry Pyle. Bobby Quinn, a future fast-pitch softball Hall of Famer, was also on the team, which Jack Mott coached to the county championship game in 1965. Richie was already hobbling on a bad left knee in high school, having suffered an injury his freshman year on the football team.

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Richie in the third round of the 1967 draft. From 1970 to 1972, Richie was the top slugger in the minor leagues. After brief stints with the Pirates in 1971 and 1972, he made the team for good in 1973. He inherited the right field job from Roberto Clemente, who had perished in the off-season in a plane crash. Richie led the club with a .324 average as a rookie. In 1974, he batted ,313 with 17 homers and 100 RBIs. He produced his first 20-homer seasons in 1975 and 1976.

The Pirates traded Richie to the White Sox for Goose Gossage and Terry Forster after the ’76 season. He enjoyed his finest year at the plate in 1977. Richie socked 30 homers and knocked in 101 runs, helping Chicago challenge for the AL West title that year. He made the All-Star team for the first time that summer, starting in left field and collecting two hits, including a double off Tom Seaver.

Richie hit the free agent market that winter and signed with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers would later sign his younger brother, John, who never reached the majors. Richie continued to hit well in Texas, making the All-Star team again in 1978, this time as the starter in right field. Richie played three years for the Rangers and belted 59 home runs.

Following the 1980 season, Richie was part of an 11-player between the Rangers and Seattle Mariners. Over the next three seasons, Richie was one of the most productive DHs in the game, batting .290 or better each year. In 1981, his .311 average was eighth-best in the league. The Sporting News gave him the Comeback Player of the Year Award—an odd choice given that he had more hits, home runs and RBIs the year before. However, he had missed a month with another knee injury. In all, Richie would undergo eight knee operations.

Richie’s production tailed off in 1983 and in 1984 he failed his spring training physical. Doctors warned him that if he continued to play, he would risk permanent damage. At the end of the year the Mariners released him. He retired with 207 home runs and a lifetime average of .287. After baseball, Richie considered going into broadcasting, but he missed being on the field. He took a job with the Cubs as a roving hitting instructor in 1986. He managed the organization’s High-A Daytona team in 2000 and again in 2005. Richie also was a substitute history teacher in the off-season. In 2004, he was inducted into the Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame, joining fellow New Jerseyans Ron Perranoski, Carol Blazejowski, Bobby Hurley, Lou Creekmur, Alex Wojciechowicz, Bobby Czyz and Kelly and Frank Tripucka.



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