• Do Wet Toes Equal A Cannonball?

    Posted by on January 31st, 2010 · Comments (10)

    I noticed this 50th Wedding Anniversary announcement in the Pittston Dispatch today. Why? Here’s a snip:

    George “Nipper” and Judith Nowakowski, Duryea, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They were married January 23, 1960 in Holy Rosary Church, Duryea by the late Rev. John Galenas and the late Rev. Leo Kosloski.

    Mr. Nowakowski is the son of the late Stanley and Josephine Nowakowski, Pittston. He attended Pittston schools. Prior to retirement he was a United States Marine, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, an adjunct professor for Lackawanna Junior College and a Pennsylvania State Trooper.

    First, and foremost, my congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Nowakowski. A half-century of marriage is a huge deal. My parents had their 50th in 2007. It’s a special time. And, to be candid, I wonder if I’ll ever make it. I was 29-years old when I got married. Hopefully, I’ll still be alive when I’m 79 – but, I don’t think anyone can count on that…when it’s 32 years away.

    But, the mention of being “a pitcher for the New York Yankees” is why I’m writing about this notice. Indeed, Mr. Nowakowski pitched for the Yankees organization from 1958 through 1960. However, the highest he ever got in the system was a few cups of coffee in “Class C” ball.

    For those not aware, back in those days, the minor league ladder worked like this: AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, and short-season D. So, anyone playing below “Class C” was really at the bottom of the chain.

    Don’t get me wrong, being a professional baseball player, at any level, for any period of time, is a tremendous feat – and one that commands my respect. But, I’m not sure that it’s correct to claim that you were a “player for the [insert major league team]” if you never really wore the uniform of that team…is it?

    I understand that these types of announcements sometimes take license to bump up some facts. And, I’m not saying that Mr. Nowakowski did something criminal here. Further, he’s not the first, only, or last person to make a claim like this one.

    It’s just one of those things that somewhat ruffles the feathers of this baseball fan – when someone shares, even just in passing, that they “played” for a major league team when, in fact, they were extremely far from ever wearing a big league uniform (even if they were much, much, closer than someone who never played organized hardball beyond the age of eighteen). How about you?

    Comments on Do Wet Toes Equal A Cannonball?

    1. Jeb
      January 31st, 2010 | 12:08 pm

      Steve I agree with you in theory, but there are two things that might be at play here:

      1. He probably didn’t do the announcement. I bet it was a grandkid who heard him say he played in the Yanks system for years and years and screwed up the announcement or maybe it was the newspaper. Remember the screwup with cheryl’s “beloved aunt” in that curb your enthusiasm episode?

      2. Maybe he wore a Yankee uniform and pitched in a spring training game. If I was wearing a Yankee uniform, Ellie or Yogi was catching me and I was facing – let’s say for grins – Larry Doby, I might say to myself, “holy shit I’m a Yankee!”.

      Have you read Joe Pos’ book about a year with Buck O’Neill? There’s a part where and older black gentleman is angry because another black gentleman is lying about playing in the Negro leagues. I can’t quote what Buck said but it was something like, let him make the claim, we know the truth and so does he.

    2. January 31st, 2010 | 12:21 pm

      @ Jeb:
      Fair points and great tie into that CYE “beloved aunt” riot!

    3. Corey
      January 31st, 2010 | 12:31 pm

      For those not aware, back in those days, the minor league ladder worked like this: AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, and short-season D. So, anyone playing below “Class C” was really at the bottom of the chain.
      =========
      Out of curiosity, why did they switch it? This seems like it makes more sense than having to explain the difference in competition between the DSL, short season, rookie, A and A Advanced leagues.

    4. Tresh Fan
      January 31st, 2010 | 1:07 pm

      Of course you must realize that playing in the minor leagues was a lot different back in the 1950s. In those days Baseball was by far the most popular sport in America. Everyone played it. Everyone. You listed the 7 minor league levels back then (and some teams had more than one affiliate at each level) but that doesn’t include the scores of semi-pro leagues and even more amateur leagues around the country. Can any one here remember the last time you played in an organized league? How old were you? My dad was in his 20s. Later on, after he was married and had children, he coached a Little League team. It was a very small town. Less than 4000 people. But it had a vibrant Little League organization. I tried out when I was 9. And I didn’t make it. My own dad wouldn’t pick me. And do you know why? Because I wasn’t good enough and it wouldn’t have been fair to all the kids who were better than me. So I went back to the sandlots with some of my friends and played played and played for the whole summer and fall, and by the next year I was “good enough” to make Little League. How about you…how good did you have to be to make your Little League team?
      So Mr. Nowakowski made it to Class C ball? Awesome! That means he was one of the best players in the country; probably the best player in his county. And, when you consider that the sport was pretty much intergrated by then and only 400 players at any time could call themselves Major Leaguers, Class C is pretty damn high.

    5. Corey
      January 31st, 2010 | 1:12 pm

      Tresh Fan wrote:

      How about you…how good did you have to be to make your Little League team?

      There was no tryouts by me, it wasn’t really a very serious league, and more of a day care for parents in the summer. There were 4 teams and everyone “made” the playoffs (cause there was only 4 teams).

      I sure do miss it though…

    6. Raf
      January 31st, 2010 | 1:17 pm

      @ Corey:
      It had to do with reorganization at the MiL level. Teams @ the lower levels couldn’t sustain operations. If you look at league histories you’ll see teams existing in places you never thought would’ve had a minor league team.

    7. Raf
      January 31st, 2010 | 1:19 pm

      Tresh Fan wrote:

      Can any one here remember the last time you played in an organized league?

      Last summer, NYCMBL. I was 34

    8. January 31st, 2010 | 2:03 pm

      @ Tresh Fan:
      I hear what you’re saying – and I did write: “being a professional baseball player, at any level, for any period of time, is a tremendous feat – and one that commands my respect.”

      Now, that said, in 1958, there were 43 full-season Class-D ball teams and 29 Class-B ball teams connected to 16 major league teams. Whereas today, you have 30 major league teams each having one team at AAA, AA, A, etc.

      This meant there were more guys playing in those days who were no where close to being near a major league game.

    9. MJ
      January 31st, 2010 | 9:45 pm

      Tresh Fan wrote:

      Can any one here remember the last time you played in an organized league? How old were you?

      Senior year of high school (1993)…part-time catcher, part-time DH.

    10. clintfsu813
      February 1st, 2010 | 8:10 am

      I feel ya here. Kinda like how it pisses me off when something negative about a player comes out and he’s either referenced as Ex-Yankee so and so or pictured wearing a Yankee uniform even if he only played for a few years in the Bronx.

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