Saturday, October 12, 2013
The Life of Andy Pafko: February 25, 1921-October 8, 2013
Phil Cavarretta. Stan Hack. Ralph Branca. Jackie Robinson. Pee Wee Reese. Gil Hodges. Roy Campanella. Duke Snider. Carl Furillo. Sal Maglie. Henry Aaron. Eddie Mathews. Joe Adcock. Warren Spahn. Lew Burdette. Bobby Thomson. Red Schoendienst.
What do all these names have in common?
1947 All Star Game. 1948 All Star Game. 1949 All Star Game. 1950 All Star Game.
1945 Cubs. 1951 Dodgers. 1952 Dodgers. 1957 Braves. 1958 Braves.
What does all this have to do with anything?
I try to constantly find new information through reading and research, to improve my general understanding of the history of the game and, through that, improve the blog for accuracy and content. This past Tuesday I finished reading a book that I had purchased way back in January about the 1957 Milwaukee Braves. It was a great book about some of the legends of the game. Anytime a book includes information about Henry Aaron you can't go wrong but one thing shocked me as I started reading it.
One name came up and I had an immediate reaction. "I didn't know Andy Pafko was on that team!"
Remember at the top of this article when I asked you what all those super stars of the game, the names that echo through history, have in common? They were all teammates of Andy Pafko. Those four straight All Star Games? They were the four straight years that Andy Pafko was honored in the mid summer classic. Those legendary National League teams I listed? Those were the teams that Pafko contributed to as they reached the World Series (or came one pitch short).
When I realized that Pafko was on that Braves team it started me thinking of all the legendary players who took the field with Pafko. All the legends he faced off against in his four World Series. All the accomplishments he had and yet his name is not one that resonates in history.
If you go to Wrigley Field you will see honors given to Banks, Dawson, Santo, Sandberg. If you go to Dodgers Stadium you will see the numbers of Robinson, Reese, Snider and Campanella. If you go to Turner Field you will find Aaron's 44. Nowhere will you find a reference to Andy Pafko.
Pafko was not a Hall of Fame player. He played 17 seasons with the Cubs, Dodgers and Braves. He hit a career high 36 Home Runs (of his career total 213) in 1950 for the Cubs. In his career he had a lifetime batting average of .285. He didn't have 3000 career hits (1796), or 1000 RBI (976) or 1000 runs (844). Andy Pafko didn't get Gold Gloves (they didn't exist back then). Andy Pafko just did what his teammates needed him to do to get them into the World Series.
Pafko was quiet and humble. He didn't beg for headlines or scream and yell at umpires. He quietly went about his job. He jogged out to the position that his manager told him to play and he hit in the batting order where his manager told him to hit.
I have a morning routine when I get to work. I am usually a few minutes early so I have time to check the paper before punching in for the never ending work day. On Wednesday I was flipping through the sports section trying to catch up on the scores and find some funny details about Wednesday's game when I got to the last section of the last page of the sports section. You know that section. It's the one that tries to hide all the boring or bad news of the sports world. It usually has something about someone getting arrested, or the results of a cricket match that took six days to play in India or that two fighters no one has heard of faced off in a press conference yesterday and pretended they hated each other. Normal stuff.
On Wednesday I was flipping that page closed and I caught two things that made me open that page and scan it again. The words I saw were Pafko, 92.
Andy Pafko died on Tuesday, October 8, in a nursing home from complications of Alzheimer's Disease. He was not a Hall of Fame player. The casual fan won't see his name and number hanging in their stadium or realize the great numbers he accumulated over his career or realize the humility and workman like attitude that he displayed next to some of the greatest players that ever lived. But students of the game will find it impossible to avoid the name Andy Pafko.