John Ritchey, 80, a standout catcher who broke the color barrier in the Pacific Coast League when he was signed by the minor league San Diego Padres in 1948, died Jan. 14 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Chula Vista, Calif. Cause of death was complications from heart and kidney failure.
A native of San Diego, Ritchey played sandlot baseball as a youth. His college education at San Diego State was interrupted by service in the Army during World War II. After the war, he briefly resumed his college education, but left to sign with the Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League. He batted .388 for the team.
He was signed by the Padres a year after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball. Ritchey played for San Diego in 1948 and 1949, but was traded to the Portland team after hitting just .257 in the 1949 season.
His best seasons were with Vancouver in the Western International League, where he hit .343 and won the batting title in 1951. He played for several other teams in the Pacific Coast League before retiring in 1955.
After retirement from baseball, he returned to the San Diego area, where he held various delivery jobs.