Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, June 18, 2006, pg. 13
We continue with our theme this month of “summer fun.” Next week marks an important anniversary, not only in Albion history, but in sporting history as well. It was on Monday, June 25, 1956 at 10:00 am. that the first organized game of what later became known as Tee Ball was played, and it was right here in Albion. It was the first time in sporting history that a batting tee was used in an officially organized game. Known locally as Pee Wee Baseball, this new sport was the brainchild of Albion coach and baseball director Jerry Sacharski. We previously covered some particulars about this game in the April 28, 2002 edition of this column, which is reprinted on the www.albionmich.com website.
Albion at this time was experiencing a boom in its employment and population. Hundreds of area children participated in the summer recreation program, in a cooperative effort of the Albion Public Schools, and the City of Albion. Prior to the origination of Pee Wee Baseball, the Midget league was the youngest age group which participated in the summer recreation program. Midget players would bring their “wannabe” little brothers who would tag along, wanting to learn how to play the game.
Sacharski and his staff realized the potential here, and designed a game that was meant to teach youngsters as young as 5 years old through 8 years of age the fundamentals of the game on a level which they could both understand, and perform. 60 boys participated in the program that first summer.
That first game was played at the south diamond at the bottom of the Victory Park sledding hill. Soon afterwards, the abandoned recreation department “west diamond” was developed into the permanent Pee Wee field. Located near “the Forks” of the Kalamazoo River north of the large Albion High School baseball diamond, it contained an old back-stop that had been previously used for softball games.
The very first game featured the Davey Crocketts verses the Donald Ducks. A copy of the original line-up does not exist. However, for tournaments held later in the summer, the Davey Crocketts consisted of: Tim Morgan, James Scott, Gil Johnson, Aaron Wyble, David Steffe, Paul Fletcher, Ed Blugerman, Charles Knickerbocker, Steve Snyder, Stan Pawlak, Charles Miller, and Tom Clark. The Donald Duck members were: Louis Stone, Dennis Pewsey, Jerry Collins, Larry Desy, Carl Wilson, Bill Davey, Bill Sacharski, Pat Jacobs, Kenny Yinger, Jim Bramble, Tom Manino, and Les Futrell. Three other teams were involved that very first season. They were the Bugs Bunnies, Pinnochios, and the Porky Pigs.
Games were held on Mondays at 10 am, and Wednesdays at 3 pm. During that first season, the Donald Ducks achieved the first regular season championship with a 5-0 record. Its members were treated to a trip to a Detroit Tigers baseball game.
A double elimination tournament was held during the first half of August featuring consolidated teams. The Porky Pigs won the first post-season tournament championship by defeating the Donald Ducks 11-4 on Sunday, August 19, 1956.
This year there will be some special events surrounding the 50th anniversary of Albion’s Pee Wee Baseball. This will include an all-star game at the Hannah St. field during the Festival of the Forks. We’ll keep you informed here in this column as these are announced. From our Historical Notebook this week we present that classic 1958 photograph of Jerry Sacharski instructing 5-year-old Craig LeClair at bat. How many of our readers participated in the Pee Wee (T-ball) baseball program when they were growing up in Albion?
1958, Jerry Sacharski instructing 5-year-old Craig LeClair at bat
All text copyright, 2013 © all rights reserved Frank Passic