Baseball helped develop an appreciation for America’s ethics

For patrons of the game of baseball, October receives the highest level of interest and attention. The major league playoffs are underway and fans are eagerly awaiting the start of another World Series. But these athletic feats also remind us of how sport helped acculturate a Polish immigrant community into mainstream American life.
Champions of both the National and American baseball leagues contested the first World Series in 1903. Around the same time, much of the Polish community in Buffalo fell in love with the game.

In its March 25, 1903 edition, The Buffalo Courier reports that the Polish Buffalo’s Baseball Club will hold a special meeting the following evening. On November 13 of the same year, The Buffalo Evening News announced the formation of a competing organization called the Polish National Baseball and Social Club. The News predicted that this group “will be one of the strongest baseball clubs in town next season, as they have some of the fastest Polish baseball players in Buffalo.” For the 1904 season, the Polish Falcons formed their own ten-team league.
From 1905 to 1915, Polonia baseball fans had the opportunity to support a large list of competitive teams. These included the St. Stanislas baseball team; the Polish Record Baseball Club under the leadership of its captain, AE Dolata; the Polish national baseball team from Dunkirk; the Polish Defenders Baseball Club led by Mr. Karlinski; the Polish athletics and baseball team, led by L. Zablonski; and the Fredro Baseball Club organized by Walter Laszewski. The Polish National Baseball Club operated from its headquarters at 282 Lovejoy (now Paderewski) Street. Always fielding a strong team, the Poles were for many years the Polish champions in western New York. One of its main competitors was the Phoenix Baseball Club, which became the Polish baseball champion for Buffalo and the surrounding area in 1915.
In its March 18, 1916 edition, the Buffalo Enquirer describes a restructuring of Polish baseball in Buffalo:
“Never before in the history of baseball in the east of the country has there been as much enthusiasm among Polish fans of the national pastime as today. About thirty-five prominent Polish businessmen on the east side formed an association, which would be known as the Polish National Baseball Association, and they secured Doll Park located on Sycamore Street and the Belt Line at heart of the Polish quarter. . . for the team pitches that they will put on the pitch under the name of the Polish nationals. Polish nationals will be a first-class semi-professional ball club. . . Baseball fans can rest assured, however, that the team will be the best Polish club to ever represent the Poles.
On opening day, April 16, Polish nationals wore red uniforms edged in blue. A band provided music and city officials were invited to attend as special guests. The enthusiasm continued throughout the 1916 season. On August 28, 1916, The Buffalo Evening News reported that approximately 15,000 fans watched one of the team’s key games. In the end, the Polish nationals won the title of the Class A municipal baseball league, as well as the silver cup given to the Polish baseball champion of western New York State. City officials and even Congressman Charles R. Smith attended the team’s year-end victory dinner held at Polish Union Hall on Fillmore Avenue.
The other exploits of Polish nationals are rightly the subject of a separate article. But they weren’t the only example of Polonia’s interest in baseball. On May 3, 1917, The Buffalo Evening News reported that the Orchard Lake Polish Seminary baseball team would play against Niagara University. The newspaper observed that “the boys from Orchard Lake have one of the best college teams in the Midwest and are billed as the best Polish baseball team in the country.” A Catholic baseball league included teams from the parishes of Corpus Christi, Saint Stanislaus, Assumption and Saint John Kanty. During the 1920s, the Polish Union of America and Polish cadets fielded popular baseball teams.
The first World Series radio broadcast took place in 1922. Prior to that date, baseball fans in Polonia had taken extraordinary steps to learn about the status of the competition. In 1920, the World Series featured Cleveland and the Brooklyn Dodgers. For the game scheduled for October 5 of that year, at Ferry Street Baseball Park in Buffalo, the Polish National Baseball team took on the role of Brooklyn and a team called the Pittsburgh Stars took on the role of Cleveland. As descriptions of the game were received via telegraph, both teams mimicked the action to benefit an anxious audience. Then, in 1921, the Polish Union of America installed an electric instrument panel in its auditorium for fans interested in following the series piece by piece.
Edward Bruch, my late father-in-law, played in the Buffalo Municipal Baseball League in the late 1920s. Forever thereafter, he became a student of the game and reminded me of how baseball inspired the youth of Canada. his generation in the Polish community on the East Side of Buffalo. In a way that no classroom instruction could ever achieve, baseball has helped develop an appreciation for America’s ethics. For over a century and still today, the game has taught community awareness within a pluralistic society. One can only speculate on the location of the silver cup given to Polish nationals for its 1916 championship year. However, we constantly witness the role of activities like baseball in the integration of Poland into the States. -United.

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