By George Von Benko
With the nickname “Lefty” it figures that John “Lefty” Radosevich was a pitcher. The former German Township High School star was one of the top baseball talents to come out of Fayette County.
Radosevich excelled at baseball and was a pretty good wrestler for the Uhlans in the early 1960’s
German won the section championship in baseball in 1960 and went undefeated both years.
“We didn’t have WPIAL baseball playoffs back then,” Radosevich said. “Once we won the county we were done.”
Radosevich had a soft spot for Joe “Hoot” Savannick who coached the German baseball squad.
“Hoot Savannick was I think quite a man,” Radosevich offered. “He loved baseball and his way of working with us was good. He was able to make us work together and play as a team. I have a lot of respect for the man.”
Radosevich honed his skills in the Big Ten League and playing American Legion baseball. He pitched Point Marion to the Junior American Legion title in 1961 and in one game recorded 23 strikeouts against New Salem.
“There were very good players in the County League,” Radosevich remembered. “There were several boys that had played minor league ball that played in the County League. We were young boys playing against older guys in the County League. I’ve always believed that you’ve got to play against somebody as good as you are or better than you are to improve your own skills.”
Radosevich’s career coincided with his good friend Bill Marovic’s career.
“Bill and I did not play on the same Little League team, but we did play Little League ball against each other,” Radosevich recalled. “We then played on the same teams from Little League all the way through college baseball. We were always together; we played a lot of baseball together.”
One of the big highlights occurred in 1959. Bill Marovic and Radosevich played on the VFW Teener League team in Uniontown in 1959. Uniontown had the state playoffs at Bailey Park. They recruited 15 year olds
from the legion teams because Uniontown was the sponsor that year. The Uniontown team wound up winning the national championship. The club had Radosevich, Marovic, Bill Vargo from Perryopolis and Sheridan McPherson from Carmichaels on the pitching staff.
The state tournament was played in Uniontown and the Uniontown VFW team won the state championship beating DuBois 15-3. They went to Hershey, PA for the national championship and won the seven games there in the double elimination tournament and didn’t lose a game.
“It was unbelievable,” Radosevich gushed. “Young boys 15 years old playing and winning a national championship was just a dream come true. We had a very good ball club. We had four left handed pitchers on the team. Marovic and I did most of the pitching. When Marovic wasn’t pitching he played in the outfield and when I wasn’t pitching I played first base. The thought about what we accomplished never really hit my mind until later. We were just 15 years old. Back then we just loved to play and we would play anywhere and at any time. To go and win a national championship was beyond my imagination at the time, when it sunk in – it was quite a feat.”
Radosevich was a standout wrestler in high school for the perennially powerful German wrestling team.
“Although I only weighed 160 pounds, I wrestled at 180 pounds,” Radosevich reported. “Ray Rifenberg was the wrestling coach and he produced a very strong wrestling program. We had some very good wrestlers. Guys like Bob Dugan, my cousin Melio Sulipek who was a heavyweight and Bob Gary. I thoroughly enjoyed wrestling; it was a good individual sport. I won the districts and the regions and went to the state championships my senior year.
Radosevich went unbeaten in duel meets his senior year before suffering a loss in the WPIAL Tournament and considered taking a wrestling scholarship when he graduated from German in 1961.
“I was pursued by Syracuse and Wisconsin,” Radosevich stated. “I really considered Wisconsin for a wrestling scholarship, but I really wanted to
West Virginia came into the picture with a scholarship for baseball.
“I don’t think it was a package deal to go to West Virginia with Bill Marovic,” Radosevich explained. “When Coach Steve Harrick came to see one of us play, he would see both of us play. I had several feelers from Penn State, Southern Illinois, but West Virginia was close and once I got the offer, I just put everything aside and went to West Virginia.”
Radosevich and Marovic were still together
“It felt good to have a friend with me,” Radosevich explained. “Bill was a very good friend and a good man and it was good to have somebody that you could fall back on.”
Radosevich played freshman baseball; the freshman schedule consisted of two games.
“Bill and I both practiced with the varsity our freshman year although we could not play varsity baseball, but both of us started as sophomores and contributed to the team immediately.”
Radosevich was a three-year letter winner in baseball from 1963-65, helped the Mountaineers to a 73-17 record during his career.
Although he was only 5-11 and 185 pounds, Radosevich was a strikeout artist for the Mountaineers. He is the only WVU player to record more than 300 strikeouts (339) during his career. Radosevich recorded back-to-back seasons with 120 or more strikeouts and holds the school record for strikeouts in a season with 123 in 1964 and 120 in 1965. He set the single-game record that still stands with 22 strikeouts against Waynesburg in 1964. Radosevich had six career games of 15 strikeouts or more.
“We had some good teams and some real good ballplayers and a good coach,” Radosevich opined. “Steve Harrick was one of the best coaches that I played for, including in pro baseball.
“In college, all I threw was a fastball and a curveball. I just came right at them. They didn’t have a jugs gun back then, so I was never timed, but scouts had told me that my fastball was in the low to mid 90’s.”
In 1963, WVU finished 30-3 and went 1-2 in the NCAA Tournament in Gastonia, NC. They lost to Wake Forest 4-3 and then downed Auburn 2-1 before losing the final game against Wake Forest 12-8. In 1964, the Mountaineers posted a 24-5 record including a 0-2 mark at the NCAA tournament at Gastonia, NC.
Radosevich is fourth all-time on WVU’s wins list with 25 and is second in career winning percentage at .862 (25-4). One of the most durable pitchers in WVU history, he completed 21 starts to establish a school record. He led West Virginia in wins in each of his three seasons and also led the team in earned run average in 1964 and 1965. Radosevich led the Mountaineers to the NCAA tournament in 1963 and 1964. He holds the school NCAA tournament record for pitching appearances and strikeouts.
“I went right at them,” Radosevich said. “The NCAA appearances were very exciting, anytime you can play any postseason baseball it is quite an honor.”
He was captain of the WVU baseball squad in his senior year 1965.
“That was quite an honor to be voted captain by your teammates,” Radosevich said.
Radosevich earned all-Southern Conference first-team honors in 1964 and 1965. He pitched a one-hitter against VMI in 1964. He was the first-ever Mountaineer selected in the Major League Baseball draft, picked by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth round in 1965. He played four seasons in the Dodgers minor league system, compiling a 16-12 record.
“I was very excited to play with the Dodgers,” Radosevich reported. “I was doing very well and I was on a Triple A contract and never did play in Triple A. In the fall of 1966 I went back to school and was student teaching and hurt my shoulder lifting weights. It was freak injury, I was demonstrating a move to my ninth grade students, and I felt something pop in the shoulder. Back in those days we didn’t know what a rotator cuff was or how to treat it. I went to spring training and it kept getting worse. Duke Snider was my manager and I told him my shoulder is bothering me. They sent me to Class A and I went through treatments, but it got worse. I went to spring training in 1968 and then they released me. It was disappointing; the thing is I don’t know if I could have made it or not. I’d much rather say I didn’t make it as opposed to saying I had a shot and I wonder if I could have made it.”
After baseball Radosevich went on to become a physical education and biological science teacher for 39 years at Broadway High in Rockingham County, Va. He coached football, basketball, baseball and wrestling. He was an assistant in basketball and football and the head coach in baseball and wrestling. He started the wrestling program in 1991 and within eight years won the district championship. Radosevich retired in 2007.
Radosevich, 75, married his wife, Diane, in 1967. They reside in Mansfield, OH. They have one son, Brad, and four grandchildren.
He was inducted into the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
“It is dream that I’ve had for years to go into the WVU Hall of Fame and I did not think it would come about,” Radosevich stated. “It’s a dream come true and it makes me proud that I’m joining my buddy Bill Marovic who is a Hall of Famer on another team.”
He now joins his buddy Marovic in the Fayette
County Sports Hall of Fame.