The NHL playoffs started this past week, so I thought I would share a couple of 'now and then' photos of my three brothers in their hockey gear. The first one was taken in the early 1990s when they were all playing in our town's youth hockey program, and the second one was taken a couple of years ago at one of their rec league events.
Today, June 5, is National Running Day. I thought I would 'celebrate' by posting a photo of my husband running in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. back in October of 2002. (Wow, I can't believe that was ten years ago.) It was a great accomplishment for him; he trained for months and I was proud of him when he finished. He doesn't run too much anymore, mostly because our kids keep us more than busy. I've always been jealous of this accomplishment. Due to a medical condition in my leg, I can't run, but I feel like I would have made a good runner. But I'm very glad he was able to do it!
So, in case you didn't know, Ancestry.com has a nice collection of school yearbooks in its database. Sometimes the yearbook results do not automatically show up when you do a basic search through their engine, so make sure to click the 'Schools, Directories & Church Histories' category on the left-hand side of the screen to narrow it down.
I found this photo of my Uncle Dan (standing, third from left) pictured with the 1968 Cleveland State University baseball team:
I've also found Uncle Dan mentioned in CSU baseball stories and box scores published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1968-1969:
Random fun fact: The 'Dick Globokar' who is mentioned several times above (and who is also pictured in the team photo - kneeling, last guy on the right) ended up being my high school geometry teacher in the mid-1990s.
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball."
It's that time of the year again. Major League Baseball's Opening Day is a little over a week away. Managers are determining batting line-ups and pitching rotations. Ground crews are preparing the fields. Concession stands are firing up the ovens and getting the condiments ready. Fans are hopeful.
There are some people who simply live and breathe one particular sport. In our family, it was my Grandpa Kowalski and that sport was baseball. He loved it. He played on various community and city teams when he was young and later, when he wasn't working his day job as a plumber, he "worked" as an umpire for Cleveland's softball leagues. I say "worked" because it was never really work to him; he enjoyed it. He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he did it for over 50 years. In 1992, he was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Slo-Pitch Hall of Fame. At the time, he was the organization's oldest active umpire. He even had the opportunity to umpire games in six National Tournaments. Below are a few photos of Grandpa either as a player or umpire.
Grandpa wasn't exactly what you would call a conversationalist. My grandmother passed away when I was a young child and he lived alone. It was often hard to strike up a conversation with him, that is, unless you talked baseball. He was always willing to talk baseball. If you went to visit him between the months of April and October, chances were very good that there'd be a baseball game on his TV screen. It didn't matter which teams were playing; he watched them all. He read the newspaper sports page every day, looked at every game's box score. He knew the players, he knew the managers, he knew the teams.
Grandpa spent his entire life in Cleveland, so, of course, he was a fan of the Cleveland Indians. Not exactly the most successful MLB franchise. (Yes, we KNOW.) But from the mid-90s to the early 2000s, we actually had a competitive team - consistently went to the playoffs and even made two World Series appearances. The team's success came at a good time for Grandpa; umpiring had become too physically taxing on him, so he had to give it up, which I'm sure was a difficult thing for him to do. Even though Grandpa maintained his stoicism about most things, the fact that his team was WINNING made him a little more excited than usual. And I think he was happy to see his city once again come to love baseball.
But there was one player on those great Indians teams that he just did not like. To my family members, he will always be known as Jim 'I'd-trade-him-tomorrow' Thome, because that's exactly what my grandfather would say about him. Didn't matter how many home runs he hit or how many All-Star games in played in, or how immensely popular he was among fans - Grandpa wanted him gone. (To Grandpa's credit, he DID strike out a lot.) Jim Thome left the Indians as a free agent in 2002, which is the same year in which Grandpa passed away. Coincidence?
So, as the quote says above, the one constant in my grandfather's life was baseball. He passed down his love of the game to his children and grandchildren and for that we are grateful.
In 1933, my maternal grandfather, William Joseph Bellan, graduated from Cleveland's East Technical High School. Below, you can see the cover of his yearbook, entitled Junebug, and his senior year photo.
All right, you say, pretty cool family heirloom. Pretty awesome that my grandpa even graduated when a decent number of boys his age left school early to start working. Then, if you flip to the back of the yearbook, there is an autograph page:
And there, second from the top, right under his sister's signature (which I find amusing), is 'Jesse Owens.' Jesse Owens, who tied the 100-yard dash world record when he was still in high school. Jesse Owens, who won eight individual NCAA championships in track and field, but who still had to live off campus because of his race, and who worked part-time because did NOT receive any sort of scholarships. Jesse Owens, who, in 1936, went on to win four gold Olympic medals in Berlin, in front of Adolf Hitler.
Now, East Tech was and still is a BIG school. My grandfather's commencement program says that, at the time of his graduation, there were 3,800 students and 110 instructors. To my knowledge, Grandpa was not on the track and field team. He may have had a few classes with Jesse, but they probably weren't good friends. (Interestingly, Jesse is not pictured in his senior year yearbook as is my grandfather. Turns out that he was a few credits shy of graduating high school and had to pass some exams to enter Ohio State.)
What I love about this story is the confluence of two typical American family stories of the early 20th century. Grandpa was the son of Croatian immigrants; Jesse (whose real name was James) was the son of poor sharecroppers who left the South as part of the Great Migration. Both sets of parents left their respective homes in search of better lives for their children. And I think it's safe to say that both succeeded.
Emily Kowalski Schroeder