Nestor Chylak ABOUT

1999 What a year!

PLAYING


"Play by Play (I saw it on the radio)"
by Terry Cashman

Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge, declared a drought emergency this year.  But there's no drought for the great American sport of Baseball.Maris/Mantel McGwire/Sosa home run poster

After a bad taste left by the strike a few years back, the sport was sparked while we enjoyed the home-run derby show that Mark McGuire (St. Louis Cardinals) and Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs) put on for us during last year's [1998] season it was like watching Maris and Mantle again!  The fervor went on and on until they broke the record of 61 home-runs in a season set by Roger Maris (N.Y. Yankees) with McGuire hitting 70 and Sosa hitting 66.   Wasn't it great?  I think it was!

St. Louis Cardinals logo

Chicago Cubs logo

Tampa Bay Delvil Rays logo

Little League Baseball logo

The home run race that started the season before, continued this year. Again, it was Cardinal Mark McGuire and Cub Sammy Sosa battling it out to beat the mark of 61 home runs in a season.  McGuire and Sosa continued slamming home-runs while we wondered: "Gosh, what other great things will happen this year?" 

New York Yankees logo

San Diego Padres logo

Phaladelphia Phillies logo

 

We watched as David Cone (N.Y. Yankees) fired a perfect game at Yankee Stadium this year.  Then there was the three day frenzy by the "Milestone makers."  "Big Mac" (Mark McGuire) showed us his power-hitting when he reached, and passed, the 500 home-run mark [Aug. 5].  The following day [Aug. 6], we saw Tony Gwynn (San Diego Padres) reach, and pass, the 3,000 career hit mark, and a day later [Aug. 7], becoming the first to do it with a home-run, we watched Wade Boggs (Tampa Bay Devil Rays) round the basses and kiss home plate after making his 3,000th career hit.  On Sunday [Aug. 9] we watched the pre-game show about the Greatest Moments in Phillies history and reminisced about past, great favorites of ours.  Well . . . there was no respite from great happenings in baseball on Monday [Aug. 10] when the grand slam record was broken.

Not to be out-done by the Majors, Tom's River All-Stars, the 1998 Little League World Series champions from New Jersey, repeated in the East playoffs for a return trip to Williamsport this year.

But one of the greatest moments for my family and me came before the season opener, when one evening in March, I sat down to read the Scranton Times and saw the announcement that Nestor Chylak Jr., an American League Umpire from Olyphant, PA, was selected for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  What an honor!   How proud we are to have known him!

I grew up in the same town where Nestor was from, and attended the same church that he did.   His parents owned a business called "The Grand Club" where, as teen-agers from Olyphant High School, we "hung out" in the days of soda fountain Cherry Cokes, the Jitterbug and Bobby Sox.

When I was a kid, you had to tune in a baseball game on the radio, or read about it in the newspaper.  Few people had a TV set and most of them were in local taverns.  It was the 1940's!  We went to the movies at the Granada Theater in Olyphant and saw Major League baseball highlights on "The News of The Day."

LA Dodgers logoCleveland Indians logo   I really didn't have a favorite major league baseball team back then.  My dad enjoyed the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians.  Most of the Maslar family were great fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and they listened to all their games on the radio.  I guess you could say my favorite team was the Sturgis Sluggers in the amateur NEP League.

Prior to World War II, all the Maslar brothers my uncles Elmer, Joe, and Dave, and my father, John played sand-lot games on a team from Sturgis.   My dad was a catcher.  And on the team was former Lackawanna County Commissioner and local Buick-Pontiac car dealer, Ed Zipay.

Soon after the war ended, baseball teams became active everywhere.  And yes, the little village of Sturgis (in Archbald Borough) fielded a team.  In fact, there were enough men living there to have two teams!  One was called the "Sturgis Royals," managed by Steve Hricko Sr., and the other was the "Sturgis Sluggers."  Ed Zipay also played for the Royals.  Eventually the Royals faded and most of the players went over to the Sluggers.

Some players I remember were Bobby "Rubber" Kunkle, Steve "Rico" Hricko, Jr.,  Steve "Max" Zenzel, "Abner" Staback (PA State Rep. Ed Staback's brother), Steve "Magua" Novajosky, Danny Bryndzia, Tommy and Steve Swanchak, Cy and Elmer Hanichak, Tony Stafursky, Jimmy "Banana Man" Abdalla, among others.  Almost all of them were veterans of WW II.

Uncle Elmer was a ground-crewman in the Army Air Corps.  He survived an injury in New Guinea and came home to coach the Sluggers.

Uncle Dave ("Chubby") was the catcher.   He served with the Navy in the Pacific during the battles for Guam and Okinawa, and played baseball for the Navy.  He played with the Norfolk Waves and was drafted by the Yankees .  His room-mate was Jackie Jensen who went on to play in the majors for the Yankees, Senators and Red Sox.  In later years, uncle Dave coached Little League in Archbald, was a Little League Commissioner and honored by Little League Baseball for his work with youth.   When he passed away, he was remembered with a moment of silence at the Little League World Series in Williamsport.  Later, the town of Archbald named a park on Laurel St. in his honor.

Uncle Joe played right field.  Bohdan "Danny" Bryndzia was a pitcher and became my uncle when he married my aunt Millie.  My cousin Mike Kollar, from Blakely, was Bat Boy.

I took my turn as water boy at home games.  My aunts and cousins did the job of compiling game stats and preparing box scores for publication in local newspapers.  They still have some of the old scrap-books with box score clippings!

All the neighborhood kids watched for foul balls, chased them down and retrieved them.  I use the word "neighborhood" loosely.   All of Sturgis is smaller than some large city neighborhoods!  Almost every kid in town was at the games!

Every Sunday afternoon, my [maternal] grandpa (fondly called "Pop") drove us from our house in Olyphant to my [paternal] grandma's house in Sturgis.  She lived next to the baseball field.  When the team was playing at home, we all watched and enjoyed the game.  Afterward, we sat down to a banquet-style dinner with the whole Maslar clan.

When games were away, Pop took us to where they were played  he was the only one in the family who owned a car!

Sometimes we walked, or rode a Scranton Transit bus to games in the Lackawanna valley, which were in the towns of Olyphant, Peckville, Eynon, Archbald, Carbondale or Dickson City.  But it was an adventure when we went in Pop's car to Uniondale, Herrick Center, Vandling, Forest City, Newton-Ransom, Harford or Nicholson.  They seemed so far away to a young kid.

It was a time when there was a baseball team in almost every small town in the Lackawanna valley and towns beyond the mountains in what we called "the farms" much the same as Little League is today.  Some towns even had two teams!  We looked forward to going to "the farms" to watch the team play because we knew that on the way home we were in for a treat.  We stopped off at Bushko's Montdale Dairy for ice cream cones.

Playing fields were truly "sand lots" back then.  They weren't grassy and groomed like those played on these days.  But it didn't matter.  Play was as intense as ever and the fans were thrilled to be able to watch the men play.  To help defray the cost of baseballs, equipment, travel expenses and to pay the umpire, they "passed the hat" and everyone gladly made a generous donation.

Back in those days, there was only one umpire on the field.  He was usually suited up in traditional navy blue and took his place behind the catcher at home plate with his protective gear.  He had to call balls and strikes and make the calls on the field.  Some preferred to take their position behind the pitcher because it was easier for them to make calls on the bases.  But it was easier for those behind home plate to determine if a long ball was fair or foul.

I remember my dad saying, ". . . today's game will be good.  Nestor Chylak is the umpire."  Everyone liked and respected him back then . . . they knew he would call a good game.

As the years passed, local teams in the NEP League dwindled, and then there were no more.  The old field next to grandma's house is now a Little League field where the tradition of baseball continues on in Sturgis.Scranton Red Sox Logo - 1947

My dad took me to Dunmore Stadium to watch the Scranton Red Sox play Eastern league Boston Red Sox logo teams from far away places like Binghamton and Elmira, New York, and Hartford Connecticut.  In '46 we saw the best Scranton Red Sox team (96-43, .691) managed by Elmer Yoter.  Scranton's Sam Mele won the batting title, and Mel Parnell won the ERA title.  Both became regulars in the major league on the Red Sox.  After a few years I was old enough to travel alone on a bus to the stadium in Dunmore and watched a young center-fielder named Jimmy Piersall play.

One-Armed Wonder book coverWhen I was a carrier for The Scranton Times* I became a member of the "Knot-Hole  Gang."  We showed our membership card and button at the gate, and paid a quarter for admission for a seat in a special section in the right field bleachers to watch the game.  I sort of took a shine to the Boston Red Sox back then.

   One night, when Scranton played Elmira, I watched as Pete Gray, the one armed player from Nanticoke [PA], caught a fly-ball and wondered how he was going to throw it.  He did it with ease.  His glove is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.  In 1986 a made-for-TV movie about his life, "The Pete Gray Story, A Winner Never Quits," was aired.   I remember seeing the annual games between the Boston Red Sox and the Scranton Red Sox and was thrilled to watch Ted Williams play.

I watched Nestor Chylak umpire Scranton Red Sox games in Dunmore stadium when I was a youngster.  Nestor officiated at basketball games in the Olyphant High School gym when I was in Junior High, and he was tough!

Umpire Nestor Chylak making the call at home plate in the Dunmore stadium. c1951
Umpire Nestor Chylak making the call at home plate in the Dunmore stadium. c1951

Nestor Chylak was a parishioner of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Ukrainian Catholic Church in Olyphant the church his grandfather co-founded and helped build.  I saw him each Sunday he attended mass when he was in town.  My son Jimmy was an altar boy and I sang in the choir.

Jimmy accompanied me to church, but when he wasn't at the altar, he was in the vestibule at the rear of the church back in those days everyone went to church and it was SRO.  On the opposite side stood Nestor.  They exchanged smiles every time they looked at each other, but never spoke to each other.   Nestor stood there with his hand in his pocket, jingling his change.  As they were leaving the church after mass, Nestor would flip a quarter to Jimmy and give him a wink of the eye.

Jimmy didn't know who Nestor was.  One day he asked me, "Who is that man?".  I said "Why . . . he's the great American League umpire, Nestor Chylak!"  Jimmy was surprised and could hardly believe I was telling the truth.  I introduced him to Nestor and he was thrilled to shake his hand.

I didn't play on any baseball teams as a kid but got together with the guys in my neighborhood and played games of "scrub" on the tree-lined, grassy field along the unpaved 800 block of East Scott Street opposite my grandmother's house where I lived in the Fern Hill section of Olyphant.  My fame came from my proficiency in the ancient sport of archery which I began practicing on my 11th birthday on the baseball field in Sturgis.  My brother Paul was a baseball player and played on Little League and High School teams.

  All my children played ball.  Eugene, Mark and Jimmy played baseball, and Tammy played softball.  Tammy played in Missy League but didn't continue on.  The boys all played Little League and Teener League baseball with the Shopa-Davey VFW in Peckville, the town where we lived.   They all played Junior and Senior Varsity Baseball on the Valley View (High School) Cougars team.  Eugene went on to play with the Little Giants at Keystone Jr. College in La Plume (near Factoryville, birthplace of the great Christy Mathewson).  He and Mark played American Legion Baseball with Jessup-Riverside.  During summer breaks from college, Eugene played on "The Saints," the most successful baseball team in northeast PA, sponsored by Ss. Cyril & Methodius Church in Olyphant.

Pittsburgh Pirates logoEugene was an All-Star player on every team he played and was recognized for his great defensive play at short stop.  He was invited to try out for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His college baseball career ended after he broke his ankle while playing ball at Lock Haven University.

Mark was a utility player and played at the positions of catcher, pitcher and first base.  He played in the Little League PA State play-offs with the Carbino Club All Stars.

Jimmy was also in the LL PA play-offs with the Carbino Club All Stars.  He played second base and shortstop and was on the Valley View Cougars team when they played in the first PIAA state baseball play-offs and were runner-up when they lost the championship game in 1978.

The summer of '78 started out on a great note after the Cougars returned home from the finals.  Jimmy and I went to Goose Pond Scout Reservation for the N.E. Region B.S.A. Sailing School at the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club-West on Lake Wallenpaupack.  I was Sailing Camp Director.  Jimmy and Joe Dubiel, from Peckville, were selected to represent Sea (Scout) Explorer Ship 313 in the PA Area B.S.A. Sailoff.

On Saturday after the 4th of July, Jimmy asked if he could go with a friend to Newton Lake for a family cook-out.  I reminded him of chores he didn't finish.  He completed them in order to be at his friend's family cottage for the event.

July 9, 1978 became a dark day in the lives of my family, and one that we can never forget.  Jimmy and his friend went swimming in the lake.  After several dives from a floating dock into water deep enough to do so, something tragic happened.   Jimmy made a dive and hit the water the wrong way.  He lost all feeling  in his arms and legs, and his friend quickly floated him to shore.  An ambulance was called to transport Jimmy to the hospital.

I received a phone call from his friend's mother about the incident.  My wife and I rushed to the lake only to see the ambulance going in the opposite direction on the way to Carbondale.  At St. Joseph's hospital, they told us they couldn't handle such a severe case and transferred Jimmy to the Scranton CMC.  After a long wait outside the Emergency Room, neurosurgeon, Dr. William Black informed us that Jimmy's injury was so severe that he will never walk again.  At age 17, he would be completely paralyzed for the rest of his life.   No need to explain the disappointment my wife and I experienced.

Jimmy spent 365 days in the Intensive Care Unit at CMC and experienced all the trauma associated with a spinal cord injury.  During that time he was tutored for his Senior Year in High School, and received his Eagle Scout Award.

There was plenty of publicity in the newspapers and on television about Jimmy's progress and accomplishments, especially when he graduated from Valley View High School in a motorized wheel chair equipped with a portable ventilator.

When Nestor became ill in Toronto that year, we all prayed for his speedy recovery.  He was back in town recuperating and I saw him around town occasionally.  On my way to the hospital one day, I stopped for gas at Butch York's station in Dickson City and Nestor was there.  He asked me how Jimmy was doing and when he could have visitors.  After I explained, he set a day and time for me to meet him and take him to the hospital to visit Jimmy.

I didn't tell Jimmy that Nestor was coming to visit.  He was very surprised when Nestor walked into his ICU room.   And naturally, they exchanged their big smiles.  Because Jimmy was on a respirator, you had to read his lips to carry on a conversation.  Nestor had some difficulty but nonetheless, they carried on a conversation with help from me.  Nestor told Jimmy he would bring him an autographed baseball and asked what was his favorite baseball team.  When Jimmy responded with the Philadelphia Phillies, Nestor said, "I don't know if I can do anything about that."

On his next visit, Nestor brought Jimmy an autographed baseball from the Phillies and an autographed photo of himself.  Jimmy thanked him and said he wanted another one [autographed baseball].  We were surprised.  Then he told Nestor, "Yours."  Nestor reached into his pocket and pulled out a baseball.  He took his pen and autographed the ball for Jimmy.

Nestor made several visits to the hospital to see Jimmy.  We arranged for him to just come visit any time he wanted, and he did.  They were some of the happiest moments for Jimmy during such a traumatic time.

Jimmy's freak accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.  The prognosis was that if he survived the initial trauma, he might live from 3 to 7 years.  As I write this article, its been 21 years since that day in July when I took that dreadful phone call.   Jimmy is still with us.

After Jimmy graduated from High School, he was transferred to the Rocky Mountain Spinal Cord Injury Center in Craig Hospital, Englewood, Colorado near Denver.  They weaned him from the ventilator.  He was given various types of therapy and our family received training in his care.

Wilkes Barre/Scranton Red Barons logoBaltimore Orioles logoHe did very well for almost 15 years without a ventilator to assist his breathing.  We took him to Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium to watch the Phillies play a couple times a summer in the '80s and to watch the Orioles play when we visited my wife's brother in Maryland.  When the Phillies AAA franchise was moved to the newly built stadium in Lackawanna County near Scranton, we frequently took him to watch the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Red Barons play.  His favorite player has always been Larry Bowa.  When Larry coached the Padres and they came to play at the Vet, we took Jimmy there to meet with him.  Today, Jimmy still follows his favorite team, the Phillies, on TV and radio and never misses a game.

Nestor Chylak plaque in front of the Olyphant Borough Building on the corner of Willow Avenue and Nestor Chylak Drive.When Nestor passed away we were saddened.  When we learned he was selected for induction into the Hall of Fame we were delighted and reflected on the past about the kind of person he was.  We watched the induction ceremony on TV and read accounts of it in the newspapers.  On Saturday, August 7, 1999, the Borough of Olyphant dedicated a plaque in front of the borough hall to memorialize Nestor Chylak, and named a street "Nestor Chylak Drive" in his honor.   We wished he was still around to enjoy all of it and accept our happy congratulations.

So you see . . . I had to do something when I read all the nice things about Nestor.  My story is only one of many such stories people can tell about Nestor Chylak.  It explains the reason why I decided to create this web site as a tribute to this great person.  Read the other stories I've put here because they tell other reasons why people think Nestor was such a great person and deserving of this honor.

Gene Maslar                                          

 IN MEMORIAM - 1999


Joe Dimaggio
1914-1999


Catfish Hunter
1946-1999




Early Wynn
1920-1999


Peewee Reese
1918-1999

1999 was a great year for baseball.  But it was also a sad one too.  We mourned the loss of some great men who thrilled us with their talent on the field Hall of Fame center fielder, 'Joltin Joe' DiMaggio, died of lung cancer at the age of 84.  Max Patkin, known as the Clown Prince of Baseball died of an aneurysm at age 79.  Cal Ripkin, Sr. who was with the Baltimore Orioles organization for 36 years, died of lung cancer.  He was 63.  Hall of Fame pitcher, Early Wynn, played for the Senators, Indians and White Sox. The Cy Young award winner died at 79.   Another Hall of Famer and Cy Young winner died this year. Jim 'Catfish' Hunter of the A's and Yankees died of complications from ALS.  And shortstop Peewee Reese, of the Brooklyn Dodgers died of lung cancer at 81.

"Joltin' Joe DiMaggio"

* My children: Mark, Jimmy and Tammy were also carriers for the Scranton Times.  Mark received an Outstanding Carrier Award.



Willie Stargell
1998

When my son Eugene lived in Oneonta, NY, we visited often and made frequent trips to nearby Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.  We were there during Hall of Fame Weekend in 1988 when Willie Stargell was inducted.  Here are some photos from some of our visits.  Click on a picture for a larger image.

 

 

2002 Visit to The Baseball HOF
With my friend Dean Terrell from Schroon Lake, NY.
With Dean and two of his sons. The first Five. Nestor Chylak's plaque is at top left. Umpire display.  Nestor Chylak is at top left.
Photos Copyright 2002 by Eugene J. Maslar

NOTE:

   As you surf this web site, you'll notice that most of the articles were taken from local newspapers and I've given credit where possible.  If I missed any, or you have past accounts of Nestor's career to contribute, let me know.
   I scanned the photos that appeared in local papers and did the best I could with the equipment and photo enhancing software  I have.  They're the best I can do without having originals to scan.  If anyone has any photos related to any of the articles that can replace those I scanned from the newspaper, or photos of Nestor Chylak and the induction ceremony that they wish to contribute, scan them and E-mail them to me, or, I can scan them for you.
   If enough donations are received, I'll make a slide show on this site.  All photos will be returned to their rightful owners and proper credit will be given.  and we'll make arrangements.

MORE FROM A TRIBUTE TO NESTOR CHYLAK
Umpire Elected to Hall of Fame


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"A Tribute to Nestor Chylak"