CBS Morning Show Features
Polish American Sports Legend
John Paciorek, Detroit native son and famed Detroit Catholic League High School sports legend in the early 1960’s at Hamtramck St. Ladislaus High School, was featured on the Monday, June 29th CBS national “Morning Show”. Paciorek, now 70, is now a well respected educator and longtime baseball coach at a private high school in San Gabriel, California.
Paciorek has a special baseball pedigree and has become the answer to a unique Major League Baseball trivia question. The question is, “Who has the best lifetime MLB baseball batting average?” On September 29, 1963 against the New York Mets in his first Major League game for the Houston Colt 45’s, John Paciorek went 3 for 3 with two walks. Batting in the seventh spot for Houston, he also had three R.B.I.’s and scored four times. His career 1.000 % batting average is considered a special footnote in baseball history. He had a perfect day at bat and in the field for the National League club. The 18 year old outfielder sustained a back injury in the off season and never made it back to the Major Leagues. The Colt 45’s beat the Mets 13-4 in that game and another native Detroiter played shortstop for the Mets, Al Moran. Lost to history is the anecdote that Houston manager, Harry Craft, started 8 rookies, all of his position players.
“It was the last game of the season and the crowd was only 4,000 but they made noise every time I came up to bat. By my last at bat, they sounded like 50,000 people as they were so loud. It was a standing ovation,” John remembered fondly.
John Cullen, famed coach at Detroit Benedictine High School, said in his memoirs, “In 1960 I had my ace, Fred Fleming pitching against St. Lad’s and John Paciorek. As a high school sophomore, Paciorek hit one so far and high at Jayne Field in Detroit, I know the ball is still up there as a satellite.”
Younger brother Tom had more baseball notoriety because of his long MLB career and his longtime award winning television broadcasts with the Chicago White Sox. Tom was renowned for his lively and entertaining on-air Polish American stories from memories growing up in a Polish household in Detroit. Some of the best related humorous recollections were the ones about learning Polish as a second language from the Sisters of Saint Francis at St. Lad’s.
All five Paciorek brothers excelled in sports in the Detroit area. John, Tom, Mike and Cy at St. Ladislaus, and the youngest Jim played at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. Jim went on to the Milwaukee Brewers and had an extended career playing professional baseball in Japan. Mike has had an extended career appearing in baseball movies in Los Angeles.
But John carved out his fame because of that one special game. Former teammate, six time All-Star and 23 year MLB veteran, Rusty Staub said of John Paciorek, “No one was a better athlete than he was. He was certainly a star in the making.” Paciorek was All-State in high school in three sports, football, basketball and baseball. In the summer of 1962 he came to national prominence as a baseball pro prospect when he was named MVP for leading his Detroit Moeller’s Citizen Insurance team to the National Amateur Baseball Federation national championship in Louisville, Kentucky. He was a shortstop then.
Paul Richards, the general manager of the expansion Houston Colt .45s, came to Michigan in 1962 to persuade Paciorek to sign with Houston. Tom Paciorek reminisced, “None of us had ever been to a restaurant before. They took us to this fancy restaurant in Detroit. We ate steaks, and when they asked John if he wanted anything else, he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take another one of those steaks.'”
After the successful summer season for Detroit Moeller’s Citizen Insurance, John accepted Houston’s offer of $45,000, an enormous amount of money for the son of an auto factory worker. From that bonus, $15,000 went to help his family; at the insistence of his father, the Colt .45s also included a scholarship fund to someday pay for John’s college education. He got his degree in Physical Education from the University of Houston.
Steven K. Wagner just released a new book on John Paciorek, “The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder”. There is special fascination for anyone who loves the game of baseball. Besides the great nostalgia, there is a story of hope and inspiration for young players aspiring to greatness. Best of all, the book chronicles interesting Detroit history, especially when brothers John and Tom and another local baseball personality, Pinky Deras, crossed paths in Modesto after a California League game. It is one special baseball anecdote of post game fun that included a wild dinner.
John Paciorek also wrote a baseball book on hitting and the art of conducting perfect baseball practices. It was titled, “The Principle of Baseball: And All There is to Know About Hitting”. John, always known as a thinking baseball coach, stressed in his book how to take baseball performance to the next level. He said, “When mere strength and natural ability reach the limits for peak performance, conscientious devotees will find “technique” to add to their effectiveness and longevity. The universe (one voice) sings in simple chords of harmonious function, changing chaos into order.”
By Raymond Rolak