WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Joe Rivich

2014-04-28T19:00:00Z 2014-04-28T22:17:08Z WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Joe RivichMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
April 28, 2014 7:00 pm  • 

Joe Rivich thought most people had forgotten him until he recently sold his house in East Chicago.

"He had a line of people wanting to buy 'Coach's house,'" his daughter-in-law Rebecca Rivich said. "A former player of his bought it. It was amazing. He bought it right away when he found out it was 'Coach's' house.'"

Rivich was East Chicago Roosevelt's head baseball coach from 1964-1985, the year the school closed. He also was the coach for the East Chicago American Legion Post 369 for those same years.

"I loved every minute of it," Rivich said. "My wife, Sally, she was into it too and that was probably the reason I could do it year-round.

"I loved the game and loved working with the kids."

One of those is Munster baseball coach Bob Shinkan. He graduated from Ball State in 1975 and was still young enough to play Legion ball. His dad, the late Robert Shinkan, was a classmate of Rivich's at Roosevelt.

"It was the best summer I have ever had," Shinkan said. "I loved playing for 'Coach.' He taught the game, but made it fun. You know what an honor it is to have played for two great coaches in Joe Rivich and Mike Niksic (Munster)? I can't explain how I feel about those two great men."

Shinkan said he has another honor of coaching Rivich's grandson Mike, a junior on the Mustangs baseball team. Mike said he asks his grandfather for a few pointers.

"It's great that I can ask my grandfather for a few pointers and him having been a baseball coach, can show me things," Mike Rivich said. "It is awesome to look up and see him at games. My other grandfather died when I was 9, so to have my grandpa there is special."

Just as it is to be coached by someone who played for Joe Rivich.

"It is special that Coach Shinkan played for my grandfather," Mike Rivich said. "We're a baseball family with my dad having coached too."

The elder Mike Rivich coached two years of Legion ball, taking over for his dad when he retired.

Joe Rivich said he is happy to oblige.

"I showed a few things on how he is coming off the mound, on his form,"Rivich said. "I would do that for anybody because I love the game so much and would do anything to help a kid."

His love of Legion ball comes from his experience. He played summer ball and did not play high school ball at E.C. Roosevelt.

"I didn't go out for basketball my senior year and the coach, Ray Walker, wouldn't let me go out for baseball," Rivich said. "I went out for summer ball instead.

"For me, Legion ball was a way to have my players all summer. We got that extra work in and we had some good teams."

Upon graduation from Roosevelt, he entered the Army and served in Japan for two years helping clean up and police the country after World War II ended.

"I played football, baseball and basketball on the base team," he said.

He then matriculated to Michigan State, where he played three years of varsity ball for John Kobs. Freshmen were not eligible to play varsity ball.

"We were just going into the Big Ten," Rivich said. "We had 4,000 kids in the freshman class, which was the school's largest at the time. A lot of us were on the GI Bill and we were a few years older than your typical college kid."

He played three years of independent league pro ball for the Lincoln (Neb.) Chiefs and also in Farifax and Faribualt, Minnesota.

He married the former Sally McHale in May of 1964 and they have five children and 12 grandchildren.

"I had such a great time teaching and coaching at Roosevelt," Rivich said. "I had some good rivalries, especially with Jake Arzumanian at (E.C.) Washington. That was a big rivalry in baseball. To this day we are good friends."

 He loved playing the summer games under the lights.

"Block Stadium was a great place to play, a great park," Rivich said. "East Chicago had a lot of good ballplayers.'

To submit a "Where Are They Now?" idea, contact Mike Nieto at mike.nieto@nwi.com or (219) 933-3232.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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