October 24, 2021

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Rudy Riska, the Heisman Trophy’s Guiding Gentle, Dies at 85

Rudy Riska, the Heisman Trophy’s Guiding Light, Dies at 85

Rudy Riska, who first glimpsed the Heisman Trophy on its pedestal on the Downtown Athletic Membership in Decrease Manhattan when he was a boy, and who years later turned the invaluable information, counselor and mentor for the younger males who gained it, died on Sept. 12 in a Brooklyn hospital. He was 85.

His daughter Elizabeth Briody mentioned the causes have been dementia and pneumonia.

For greater than 40 years, the self-effacing Mr. Riska, ran the group on the membership that awarded the Heisman to the yr’s excellent soccer participant. He oversaw the itinerary of the winners and inspired them to suppose severely about what they’d say of their acceptance speeches. He purchased tickets to Broadway exhibits for his or her households, made reservations at high eating places and arranged the annual Heisman dinner in Manhattan, which drew as many as 2,000 company.

Mr. Riska developed that job because the athletic director of the Downtown Athletic Membership, the trophy’s longtime residence. He had observed that nobody was supervising the winner’s actions when he was in Manhattan for the award ceremony.

“They have been simply faculty children plucked from their campuses and all of a sudden flown to New York,” he told The New York Times in 2010. “They have been usually unsophisticated children. Most had by no means performed on nationwide tv. Many had by no means been on an airplane till they flew to New York. Their heads have been spinning.”

“I obtained there and Rudy put his arm round me and the remaining was like a magic carpet trip,” Eddie George, the Ohio State running back who gained the Heisman in 1995, informed The Instances. “And that was what Rudy needed. He needed each winner to recollect his weekend without end.”

Mr. Riska labored totally behind the scenes — followers watching the televised annual ceremony would unlikely have identified his identify or face — however the winners understood his significance.

“I notice how a lot energy he had, however he by no means put it on show,” Desmond Howard, the 1991 Heisman winner, mentioned by cellphone. “When everybody defers to you, you should have energy, however he carried himself as somebody who served you and took care of all of your wants.”

Rudolph James Riska was born on Aug. 22, 1936, in Manhattan to Rudolph and Elizabeth (Marecek) Riska. His mom cleaned places of work. His household lived for some time close to the Downtown Athletic Membership, within the monetary district, and when he was 11 his father took him to see the Heisman.

“I stared on the names engraved on the trophy,” he informed The Instances. “How fortunate can a man be to finish up in a job the place these names come to life they usually turn into your folks?”

His athletic focus as a teen was baseball, not soccer. He threw a no-hitter for Metropolitan Excessive Faculty, which attracted the curiosity of the Yankees, who signed him to a contract. He performed on low-level minor league groups within the Yankee system from 1955 to 1958 and the Baltimore Orioles’ system in 1959. On the Aberdeen, S.D., affiliate of the Orioles, his supervisor was Earl Weaver, the Orioles’ future Corridor of Famer. He compiled a 36-33 report, however continual bursitis ended his profession.

He went to work as a salesman for the sporting items firm Rawlings, however after two years he accepted a job with the Downtown Athletic Membership. He was quickly named to the submit of athletic director, the place that John Heisman, the trophy’s namesake, held there till his demise in 1936.

As athletic director, Mr. Riska developed health and sports activities packages for membership members and created occasions that honored famend athletes. However it was as the chief director of the Heisman Trophy Belief and the Heisman Basis that he was largely identified.

“What I feel I’ve been in a position to do,” he told The Bay Ridge Paper in 2003, “is information and defend the Heisman from individuals who may attempt to earn money the fallacious means on it. I wish to view myself because the conscience of the Heisman.”

He retired in 2004, three years after the 9/11 assaults and their aftermath led the membership to shut completely. The trophy, which is awarded by a vote of members of the sports activities media and previous winners, was moved to numerous places and is now held on the Heisman Belief’s workplace in Manhattan.

Along with his daughter Elizabeth, Mr. Riska is survived by his spouse, Josephine (Karpoich) Riska, often called Lorraine; one other daughter, Barbara Piersiak; and 4 grandchildren.

For a time, 15 or 20 of the previous Heisman winners who traveled to New York Metropolis for the annual anointing of the most recent winner took break day through the weekend to commemorate their achievements at a Blarney Stone bar close to the membership.

“Individuals may need been in search of them, however I’d allow them to go off by themselves for a few hours,” Mr. Riska informed The Instances. “They’d let their hair down with their wives, rubbing shoulders with these blue-collar building employees. It was a group of a number of the greatest faculty soccer gamers ever. However they simply needed to hang around with a daily crowd.”

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