About 150 locals join Chylaks at induction ceremony
Tribune Staff Writer
Cooperstown, N.Y. - Leo McGinnis was a Nestor Chylak fan before Chylak became a legendary American League umpire.
McGinnis knew Nestor from Lackawanna County and remained good friends with Chylak even after moving to Detroit. There, McGinnis owned a restaurant for 30 years.
"My restaurant was a hang-out for umpires," McGinnis said. "Nestor would always have new umpires and he'd
bring them in. He would bring in Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin and other ballplayers sometimes."
So when Chylak was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, McGinnis wanted to be there. He traveled from his Florida home, and then spent 2½ hours on a Martz bus from Scranton for Sunday's induction.
"He called me up at 3 o'clock in the morning to say he wanted to come here," Leo's nephew Pat says.
The McGinnises were two of about 150 local people who made the trip on three Martz busses for Sunday's event.
"I knew Nestor in Olyphant when his family owned a bar," Leo says. "We drank all the way from Olyphant to Detroit."
John Wilcha of Carbondale never met Chylak and doesn't remember seeing him ump, but nonetheless was anxious to attend Sunday's ceremony.
"I work for the tour company and I requested this day," Wilcha says. "I could have went to Yankee Stadium, but I came here instead."
For 28 years, Tony Defazio of Carbondale has been a softball umpire. Although Chylak didn't influence Defazio's decision to ump, he said Chylak is a role model for umpires.
"I'd say he was pretty good," the 67-year-old Defazio says. "He was very consistent."
Sitting in the shade of the bus following the ceremony, Henry and Joyce Wilding took a break from a long afternoon.
"I knew Nestor growing up," Henry, 70, said. "He was a personal friend of mine."
"He used to always get us tickets to Yankee Stadium," Joyce said.
Chylak becomes the fifth northeast Pennsylvania native inducted into baseball's hall. Chylak joins Christy Mathewson, Bucky Harris, Hugh Jennings, and Ed Walsh in Cooperstown. And the local fans were proud to hear the name Chylak announced along with Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount.
"It was great to hear his name mentioned with those other people," Henry Wilding says. "It's a great honor."