Monday, October 14, 2013
A CHILDHOOD RECOLLECTION OF ANDY PAFKO
Andrew (Andy) Pafko was born February 25, 1921, in Boyceville, Wisconsin. The third oldest of six children, Andy claimed he got his good grip on the baseball bat from having milked 16 dairy cows a day.
Andy first played baseball for the Connorsville, Wisconsin team of the amateur Dunn County League. At age 19, he decided to try out for the Eau Claire Bears of the Great Northern League. Manager Ivy Griffin signed him only to let him go later the same day upon realizing he had too many players on the roster.
Later that same summer, Andy was re-signed to an emergency contract because of an injury to an outfielder and he finished out the season with the Bears.
Pafko went on to play for the Madison, Wisconsin team, then signed with the Green Bay Blue Sox, and was eventually signed by Bill Veeck of the Milwaukee Brewers, who sent him to the Macon, GA, team.
Fully expecting to begin playing for the Milwaukee team, Pafko was shocked to read in the November newpapers that he had been bought by the Chicago Cubs. Pafko was deferred from military service because of high blood pressure and went on to a long and illustrious career with the Chicago Cubs, playing on their last World Series winning team in 1945.
He then went on to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers and in 1954 was traded to the Milwaukee Braves, a team which had just moved from Boston. The highlight of his Milwaukee career was in 1957 when he played for the World Series Champion Milwaukee Braves, alongside Henry Aaron, who replaced him at his position in 1959.
Andy Pafko was one of my childhood heros even though he played for Connorsville! You see, my dad taught me the love of two things: fishing and baseball. Because our farm was just south of Menomonie, off Highway 25, my brothers and I were all Menomonie Eagles fans. On sunday afternoons, our dad would take us to see the Menomonie Eagles play at Wakanda Park. Of course, all the boys had a favorite players. Mine was "Budge" O'Connell, of the local television, radio sales and service in Menomonie. Budge was the catcher and one of the better hitters for the Eagles.
I will always remember the sunday that my dad took us to an Eagles vs Connorsville game at Connorsville. It had rained heavily the night before, and the Connorsville outfield was nothing more than soupy mud. There he was: Andy Pafko - playing center field for Connorsville.
In the fifth inning, with a man on at first, up to the plate steps "Budge". On the second pitch he hits a towering fly ball to right center. Pafko begins churning through the mud, his eyes skyward, trying to reach the fly ball. As he approaches the ball, he is aware that he will not be able to catch it on the fly, so he extends his glove hand downward to get the ball on it's first hop. But the ball doesn't hop - it plops! It hits that soupy mud and sinks almost out of sight. Andy reaches to where the ball should have been, and grabs air. He then over runs the ball, realizes what has happened, tries to put on the brakes, and like an uncoordinated ice skater, slips "ass over tea kettle" landing butt first in the mud.
In the meantime, before the ball is retrieved and hurled towards the infield, the runner that was on first has scored and "Budge" O'Connell goes on to third with a standing triple.
You know, I cannot remember who won that game - but I shall never forget the scene just described!
I wanted to publish this in honor of "Handy Andy" Pafko, a great ball player and human being. He died tuesday, October 8, in a Michigan nursing home. He was 92 years old.