Former Troy baseball coach Chase Riddle dies

TROY - Former Troy baseball coach Chase Riddle passed away early Sunday at the age of 85. Visitation for the Troy baseball icon will be held at First Baptist Church of Troy on Tuesday at 12 p.m. with the funeral to follow at 2 p.m.

"Chase Riddle was truly a player's coach—which I believe is one of the highest compliments a man in his profession can be paid," Troy Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. said. "His players thought so well of Coach Riddle that at least 15 sons of former Trojan baseball players are named for him. That is a remarkable symbol of the respect and admiration that his players felt for him. Coach Riddle was an icon. We have lost a great friend."

Riddle won 434 games in 12 seasons as the head coach of the Trojans from 1979-1990, including Division II National Championships in 1986 and 1987.

"It's a sad day for former players and people associated with Coach Riddle," Troy assistant coach Mark Smartt said.

"He was instrumental in so many people's lives. The fact that my son bears his name speaks to the man and what he meant to all of us. I don't think I can even find words to adequately express all he meant to me and to each of his former players. "I'm proud to have known him and had the pleasure of being around him. He meant so much to so many."

Smartt played for Riddle from 1986-87, while also coaching under the legend for two seasons following his playing career. Riddle's baseball career spanned four decades (he was player, manager, scout and coach). At the age of 17, he signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox, but World War II interrupted his playing career.

After being discharged from the Navy, he enrolled at Troy where he played football, basketball and baseball. In 1950, Riddle earned Little All-American honors as fullback. After graduation, Riddle coached at Troy for three seasons. Then, in 1955, he joined the St. Louis Cardinals organization as player/manager of farm teams across the U.S and Canada. In 1963, he became the Cardinals' scouting supervisor in the southeast and the Caribbean.

During that time he signed players such as Steve Carlton, Hector and Jose Cruz and Coco Laboy. In 1978, he took over as head coach at his alma mater. His overall record at Troy was 435-149-2. He led the program to five Gulf South Championships (1980-82, 1986- 87), six NCAA Central Region Championships (1980-81, 1984-87) along with the two national titles. The home of Troy baseball, Riddle-Pace Field, is named in his honor. "

He's a legend in my opinion, not only winning baseball games, but how he represented the university and the city of Troy," veteran Troy basketball coach Don Maestri said. "What stood out was that as great of a coach as he was, he was a better person. Coaches everywhere could learn something from Chase Riddle."

Maestri and Riddle were on staff at Troy beginning in 1982 until Riddle's retirement. Author William Samford published Riddle's memoirs in 2003, titled Chase: Chase Riddle and his years at Troy State.

"There are two things that strike me about Coach Riddle - his integrity and how much he cared," Troy athletics director Steve Dennis said. "He cared for his players, for his university and for his family. I'm struck by the fact that when we have reunions from his era and we see what a special impact Coach Riddle made on his players to the point that when they had their own children, they named them after him.

"In the last seven years, I was able to learn from someone who had been through it all. Being in his house, with his family and especially his wife, Ms. Betty. He taught us so much about how to be a coach, but above all how to be a great family man. Troy has lost a great one." He was inducted in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.