Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge, declared a drought emergency this year. But
there's no drought for the great American sport of Baseball.
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
(Chicago Cubs) put on for us during last year's 
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.
McGuire hitting 70 and Sosa hitting
66. Wasn't it great? I
think it was!
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
McGuire and Sosa continued slamming
home-runs while we wondered: "Gosh, what other great things will happen
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
My dad took me to Dunmore Stadium to
watch the Scranton Red Sox play Eastern league teams from far away places like
Binghamton and Elmira, New York, and Hartford Connecticut. In '46 we saw
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.
When 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
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
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
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.
Eugene 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
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
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
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
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.
He 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
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.
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
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'
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.
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
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.