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FEATURE
JULY 2017
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Remembering Yastrzemski and “The Impossible Dream”

tom_Kielbasa Power Yaz

Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski

 

by Tom Tarapacki

It was 50 years ago that Carl Yastrzemski had one of the greatest seasons in baseball history, leading the Boston Red Sox to an American League pennant, while earning American League MVP honors. Yaz was captain of the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox, and that season he not only was MVP but became the last hitter to date to win the Triple Crown, earned a Gold Glove for his defense in left field, was voted the Major League Player of the Year, and led the Red Sox to the franchise’s first World Series appearance in 21 years.

Yaz had great numbers, especially considering that he did so during an era when pitching was dominant. Yaz led the league in home runs (44), and RBIs (121), and topped the AL in batting average (.326), on-base percentage (.418), and slugging percentage (.622). He also finished first in runs scored (112), hits (189) and total bases (360).

The Red Sox won the pennant by one game, ahead of the Tigers and Twins, and Yaz was clutch. He batted .417 in the month of September with nine home runs in 96 at-bats. In the last fifteen games of the season, Yaz batted .491 with five homers and 18 RBIs.

Yastrzemski was born in Bridgehampton, N.Y. to Carl Yastrzemski, Sr. and Hattie Skonieczny, both of Polish heritage. Now 77, he is the proud grandfather of Mike Yastrzemski, who is playing in the Baltimore organization.

 

BYE BYE A.J. It’s official: A.J. Pierzynski has retired from baseball.

The two-time All-Star catcher had a reputation for being abrasive, confrontational, and mischievous. His former manager Ozzie Guillén once famously said, “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”

Pierzynski’s feisty nature often got under other players’ skins, but he had a very long and successful big league career. A career .280 hitter, Pierzynski started his big league career with Minnesota as a member of its “Pole Patrol” in 1998, and later played for the White Sox, Giants, Rangers, Red Sox, Cardinals and the Braves. He was a member of the 2005 White Sox World Series championship team. A.J. is now using his brash style to great advantage as a full-time analyst with Fox Sports.

A.J. is from the same town as Carl Yastrzemski, Bridgehampton, N.Y. In fact A.J.’s grandfather. Anthony Pierzynski, played for a semipro baseball team on Long Island started by fellow potato farmer Carl Yastrzemski Sr. Yaz Sr. managed the Bridgehampton White Eagles and played shortstop. Four Yastrzemski brothers played on the team, and the batboy was Carl Yastrzemski, Jr.

 

DYNGUS DAY IN THE NBA. Dyngus Day got some attention on national TV when video from Dyngus Day in Cleveland was shown on TNT’s Inside the NBA show. “This is celebrated all over the country,” said host Ernie Johnson. Saying he never heard of it, panelist Charles Barkley asked where in the country it’s celebrated. Johnson replied: “Mainly in Buffalo — Buffalo’s a big hotbed for Dyngus Day.” I’m not sure why a show about the NBA got into a discussion of Dyngus Day, but the panelists had a lot of fun with it. Check it out on YouTube.

You might recall that a couple of years ago the TNT crew had a heated discussion about pierogi during a game when Washington’s Polish-born center, Marcin Gortat, had a 31-point, 16-rebound performance. “Barbecued pierogi alert, barbecued pierogi alert!” shouted panelist Shaquille O’Neal. “Barbecue! Hashtag! Pierogi! Alert! That’s sausage, for all you dummies like Chuck.” Chuck — Charles Barkley — responded: “Pierogi’s not a sausage, fool.” He explained that Shaq confused pierogi and kielbasa. After the game, Gortat settled the argument by telling them you cannot barbeque pierogi.

 

POLISH CLIMBERS. Michael Powell wrote an excellent in-depth piece in the New York Times about Polish climbers, “who for reasons of history and culture have earned reputations as the greatest climbers of the Himalayas in winter.” The piece focuses on ten Polish climbers who hope to make history by reaching the summit of K-2 next winter, a feat that has never been accomplished. Krzysztof Wielicki , at 67 among the most accomplished Himalayan climbers in the world, is the leader of the expedition.

“A decade ago, what remains of the old guard challenged a younger generation to test limits of flesh, endurance and creativity in the Himalayas, “ he wrote. “Their story, embedded in the urge of free spirits to slip the unsmiling bonds of a Cold -War communist government, offers our starting point.” According to Powell, after World War II and the Communists regime, Poles went to the mountains for freedom. “Poland’s climbing clubs swelled with members,” wrote Powell. “The most famous was found in Katowice, a steel town a few hours drive from the Tatras.” The Katowice club has a coat of arms with an eagle and an ice pick.

The article is titled “Scaling the World’s Most Lethal Mountain, in the Dead of Winter” and is available on the Times website.

 

HALL OF FAMER. Leigh Barczewski was recently inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. Originally a speed skater from West Allis, Wisconsin, he was a Junior National Champion in skating. He started in bicycle racing at age 14 and became a cycling track sprinter placing fourth at the 1973 World Junior Championships in the Match Sprint. He also finished fourth at the U.S. Championships in 1974. In 1976 he won the U.S. Olympic Trials and competed in the 1976 Montréal Olympic Games in the 1,000 meter Match Sprint.

Leigh represented the United States in the tandem sprints in two World Championships, finishing 2nd in 1978 in Munich, Germany along with driver Jerry Ash. He won four consecutive National Championships on the track in the Match Sprints.

In May 1980, Leigh and National Pursuit Champion Dave Gryllis pedaled an aerodynamic Vector tandem tricycle to a world record of 62.9 mph at the Ontario Speedway in California. When the US decided to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics, Barczewski retired from the sport at the age of 24.

 

MARINO WAS A POLISH RIFLE. There have been a lot of “Polish Rifles” — outstanding Polish American quarterbacks in the NFL —over the years. Ed Danowski, Johnny Lujack, Ron Jaworski, and Steve Bartkowski are among them. You may not know that Dan Marino , a quarterback for the Miami Dolphins and NFL Hall of Famer, is one of them. His father’s ancestry was half Italian and half Polish, while his mother is of Polish descent.

Dan is the son of Veronica (Kolczynski) and Daniel Marino. Dan’s paternal grandparents were Constantine Marino and Julia Batko. Julia was born in Pennsylvania to Polish parents, George Batko and Anna Kotik. Dan’s maternal grandparents were Stanley Kolczynski and Helen Rudzka, both of Polish ancestry.

 

DANOWSKI MADE HIS MARK. Duke University men’s lacrosse head coach John Danowski became the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse wins leader with a victory over Jacksonville during the regular season. Coaching in his 563rd career game overall and 205th at Duke, Danowski climbed atop the Division I coaching records list with his 376th career victory.

Only Jim Berkman at Salisbury and Hank Janczyk of Gettsburg, on the Division III level, have more lacrosse coaching wins.

In his 35th season of coaching overall, Danowski started his coaching career at LIU Post in 1983, going to Hofstra and then Duke in 2006. He arrived after the previous coach was forced out because of accusations that Duke lacrosse players had assaulted a woman, charges that proved to be false. John refocused the program and took it to new heights, amassing 157 wins, seven ACC regular season titles, four ACC Tournament titles, eight straight appearances in the NCAA semifinals, four in the NCAA title game and ultimately the 2010, 2013 and 2014 national championships.

Sixth-ranked Duke lost to No. 3 Ohio State in this year’s NCAA Men’s Lacrosse quarterfinals, as Jack Jasinski provided two goals and two assists for the Buckeyes.

 

PERKOSKI’S NOTEBOOK. After winning his fifth Bundesliga title, Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich was chosen the league’s player of the year … Broadcaster Bob Koshinski was named the winner of the 2017 Stanbro Media Award by the Upstate N.Y. chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame … In his first season coaching girls hockey at Frontier/Lake Shore/Orchard Park (also known as “FLOP”), coach Bob Klimowicz helped the team to an historic season and earned All-Western New York Girls Hockey Coach of the Year honors … If you heard “Souza-Baranowski” in the sports news lately, that’s the name of the correctional institution in Shirley, Massachusetts where former NFL star Aaron Hernandez recently hanged himself. The name of the prison honors two corrections workers, officer James Souza and industrial instructor Alfred Baranowski. They were fatally shot in 1972 at the Norfolk prison during an escape attempt by a convicted murderer whose wife had smuggled in a gun.

Grzegorz Kosma, a Polish handball player who competed in the 1980 Summer Olympics, died at 60 … Lacrosse midfielder Conrad Ordakowski of D III York made program history by becoming the first Spartan ever to earn first-team All-America honors … pitcher Bob “Sarge” Kuzava, who helped the Yankees win three consecutive World Series from 1951–53, died at 93 … Poland’s Piotr Hercog and Robert Celiński were first and second in the international category of the Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon, the world’s highest trail running event. Łukasz Zdanowski, another member of the Polish team, came in fourth.

Tom Tarapacki’s Sports column is a regular feature of the Polish American Journal.

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