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Local Sports News

Monday, 21 June, 2010 1:40 PM

Ozark to be honored by the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame

Kowal and Barkowicz also inducted

Photo Credit: National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame

2010 Inductees for the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame
by Raymond Rolak
gourmetsports@yahoo.com

 

DETROIT -- The richness of Polish sports and culture will be celebrated at the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame induction on June 24, in Troy, Michigan. The NPASHF induction ceremony will honor former Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark, swimming champion Kristy Kowal and tennis pro Peaches Barkowicz.

Ozark, who grew up in Buffalo and was a World War II veteran, played in the Brooklyn Dodger's system for many years.

As a Major League Manager, Ozark led the Phillies to National League-East titles in 76, 77 and 78. He was also a longtime coach for the L. A. Dodgers.

Former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Greg Luzinski will present for the deceased Ozark. Ozark passed in Vero Beach, Florida in 2009 and is survived by his wife Ginny and two children, Dwain and Darlene. Luzinski was inducted into the NPASHF in 1989.

Ozark, like Casey Stengel was known for his humor and fractured English. His most famous saying was, "Half this game is 90% mental."

Detroit native son and veteran announcer, Tom Paciorek, is scheduled to emcee. He was awarded a sports Emmy for his Chicago White Sox and Washington National's baseball broadcasts. Ozark was one of his baseball coaches when he played for the Dodgers.

NPASHF Chairman Jim Conrad said, "We will also be inducting swimming champion Kristy Kowal of Reading, Pennsylvania and Hamtramck, Michigan native and tennis great Peaches Barkowicz."

Kowal was named NCAA Woman of the Year in 2000. Besides being an NCAA Champion from the University of Georgia, she won the Silver Medal in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Sydney Olympic Games. Kowal was also an academic All-America.

Barkowicz, was a junior tennis sensation under famed coach, Jean Hoxie. She won the Orange Bowl title four years in a row, 1963-1966. Along with her sister 'Plums', they had great celebrity after their appearance on the September 13, 1967 national "Mike Douglas Television Show". Barkowicz had a long time professional career on the pro tennis tour.

Past NPASHF Chairman and University of Michigan football player, Nick Frontczak said, "We expect a full house with such a great line-up."

At the recent Polish-American Night at Comerica Park in Detroit, before the A's-Tigers game, former Tiger great Willie Horton reminisced. He told a radio audience how honored he felt when presenting Paciorek into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1992. Said Horton, "I remember how great the mushroom soup was that evening. I love Polish food. Tom and I were teammates in Seattle. He had good years in Seattle. He always helped keep the clubhouse loose. He is a great baseball broadcaster, always prepared."

Horton, who works as an advisor for the Detroit Tigers is currently on a book tour.

The Honorable Paul Paruk, Director of the NPASHF said, "Tickets are still available and we promise a great evening with great food. We will also be having a golf outing on July 23, and Evan 'Big Cat' Williams will be demonstrating the art of the long drive." For tickets to either event 313-407-3300.

Dinner guests will also be able to browse the Hall of Fame and Museum exhibits before and after the induction dinner.

Danny Ozark during World War II

Returning to Buffalo, N.Y. after WWII in the winter of 1945, gave Ozark very little time to prepare himself for baseball. "I was in the Army, and we landed in Europe on D-Day."

When asked to describe what it was like to be there on D-Day, Ozark replied, "Well, it was I guess, the way a lot of people ask me, and the best thing I probably said was, 'My underwear was very dirty and I didn't have a chance to change it for 2 weeks.' We were scared like everyone else, but we were young kids and a lot of that stuff didn't bother us. Once you've seen death and people dying slowly, things like that stay in your memory. I can still visualize guys drowning after getting out of LCT's (landing craft tanks), because the water was deeper than they anticipated. Some of the guys that went down with their 60lb's of equipment drowned and we never saw them again."

As for how Ozark received the Purple Heart, he explained, "I received a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds off of an artillery shell. The other rough action we were in was the Battle of the Bulge. They had a battlefield hospital and then I spent time in Antwerp while the bulge was finishing towards us. I remember they had a giant shipping depot and they had giant docks where all of our equipment came in. It was massive. Ralph Houk was at the Bulge, but we never talked about it."

Spring Training. "When I got home in December 1945 and as my brother didn't go into the service, I was able to play basketball with him until spring training. He worked me hard. I got my legs in better shape than I had them before, but I never got to throw or anything like that living in Buffalo (in the winter). I was three years overseas. I was just happy to be home and safe from the war."

(Raymond Rolak is a past NPASHF Chairman)

 

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