Duquesne’s Buckos – THE ZEMPS

Since the Pirates are 4 games ahead of St. Louis in the Central Division this year, what better time to celebrate another winning team – THE DUQUESNE ZEMPS!

Since I began writing this blog, I have received many questions about the Duquesne Zemps. I have dug through countless issues of The Duquesne Times, and have found articles about the Zemps. Unlike the fanatical over-the-top obsession that the media has for sports teams today, The Duquesne Times offered a more subdued approach.

As I combed through the papers, I was able to discover that the Zemps originally were a sandlot team of guys that played on the Polish Hill fields. The team originated from a group of players in 1933. Most of the team members were first generation Americans whose parents primarily immigrated from Zemplinsky County in Czekoslovakia, thus the name ZEMPS.

1949 was a very good year for the team as the following articles will illustrate. There are many names that are familiar to me. My Uncle Sam (Carr) was a team member, and I vaguely remember him talking about some of his team mates. How many do you remember?

Enjoy!

7-1949

Total Article

Sept 1949

Finding photographs of the Zemps was a challenge. Despite their very successful 1949 season, I was only able to final a team photo of the 1951 team.

1951 Zemps

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29 Responses to Duquesne’s Buckos – THE ZEMPS

  1. Ron Dyakon says:

    Just to let you know that Duke Dyakon was my uncle….I remember when I was growing up and watch him play….. Ron Dyakon of Lewes De….

  2. Jim Galvanek says:

    Just became aware of the Duquesne Hunky by my brother John. He and I grew up watching the Zemps play due to our father, Johnny Galvanek being a pitcher for many years. I recognize many of the names on the Zemps. One that hasn’t been mentioned was a first baseman named Jamison. If I remember correctly he was left handed and very tall.

    To Dave Forgash, I am pretty sure you and I played little league baseball for the Pirates. Our coach was Red Muir. Let me know if I am mistaken.

    I have a lot of reading to catch up on and will enjoy doing that. Keep up the good work, Duquesne Hunky.

    • Dave Forgash DHS '62 says:

      We were in fact on the same Moose Pirates Little League Team with a total of 16 players. Red Muir was the Manager and Paul Artim was the coach I have a picture of the team sporting our jackets from 1957. Courtesy of the Moose members. (Steel Workers were Generous to us kids) Bajus, Kacey Kushner, Moran, Sabol, Zewe, Artim are some names I remember. In 1957 the Pirates were runner up in the City Championship representing the National League. Manager Andrew “Red” Muir could not get it in his head may name was Dave and always called me Dan, so you know when we got our jackets at the Moose Banquet, the name on my jacket was Dan and not Dave. I wore my jacket proudly any way.
      The American league Coached by the Fabulous Barker Brothers (The Indians, as I recall) beat us 2 out of 3 games in 1957 at the second street field to win the City Title. Bill Ryczij, who went on to fame as a basketball player at Elizabeth-Forward was a good pitcher and in game one which the Pirates won, he pitched and I hit him like a pitching machine including a home run. Eicholtz pitched the second game and we lost a squeaker. Now the Barker Boys from Third street were very baseball savvy and coached the Indians. They went on to Coach me in the Duquesne Pony League. Ted Barker told Ryczij to load up on curves and pitch me on the corners. I had never seen anything like this before and could not hit him and must have struck out at least 3 times, Bill had great control pitched all 6 innings and the Indians won the Duquesne City Championship.
      1957 was the first and only year the Duquesne Nationals went to Williamsport where we lost a couple games by one run and were eliminated. Just like Williamsport Little League today a bus load of Duquesne citizens made the trip to root for us.There was no TV coverage back then. Why I mention this is because if the Duquesne National and Duquesne American League had been combined as one team, we would have been unbeatable. That is how much natural baseball talent came out of our little town of Duquesne,PA.
      As we have learned from this blog, there was plenty of talent in ALL sports from many decades that came out of Duquesne, many have been mentioned, like your Dad. We all know of many more but there are there far to many to mention but they are not forgotten. With little TV and no computer games, back then sports was a great alternative for a lot of dedicated young men and hard working coaches from Duquesne PA.
      Give my best to your brother John. One day while while he and I were “hiking” in the Kennywood Woods, we came across a camp site and thought the fire was out. It was not, John some how stepped in it and the hot coals burned his foot up to the ankle. Fortunately your family lived in Duquesne Place at the time and together John and I struggled to your home, John leaning on me and hopping on one foot all the way home. John was off to the hospital. He did recover and probably still has the scars to prove it.

      • Ken Denne says:

        Dave,
        Hope this note finds you in good health. Great Little League story, however, I was never a fan of Little League. In I949, I think, Chuck Petraitis was instrumental in getting Little League started in Duquesne. Paul Jugan and I were 6 months too old to play. 2 years later Pony League sarted and again we missed it by several months . While our peers were playing maybe once or twice a week, Paul, Ouchie Salopek and I spent hours every day on Polish Hill field batting fielding, etc. As a result, Paul and I had much more experience and we played 3 years with the high school and Legion leaving most of the former Little leaguers never playing organized ball..
        Hi to John and Jim Galvanek. What a super Dad they had and I was fortunate to play with hin in his later years..

      • Bob Chermonitz says:

        Dave, that’s another good story! I totally forgot about the jackets for the Duquesne “World Series” winners. Got mine in ’65 playing first base for the “Yankees” after we defeated the “Cardinals”. Tried to stretch a true triple into an inside the park grand slam but was tagged out at the plate by Ralph Lemak the catcher for the Cards. I loved that jacket, and like you, wore it proudly. Also, I never knew a Duquesne team went to Williamsport. However, after you played, they did combine the National and American leagues for the annual all-star games. In ’64 or ’65 we went to the Clairton tournaments and played a team from Finleyville with a red headed pitcher who I couldn’t seem to hit. During the tournament they had a brand new Cadillac on raffle down the left field line beyond the fence by the refreshment stand. Last a bat I was trying to get a jump on this pitcher and swung a little too early. Result, foul ball home run and one broken Cadillac windshield. Then the kid struck me out.

  3. Marlene Prosnik says:

    Loved your Zemps article. My husband and I have done considerable genealogy research so I’d like to fill in the info on the Zemplen origin. Zemplen (along with Spis, Saris and Uz) are counties in Eastern Slovakia nr Poland and Ukraine inhabited by Carpatho-Russians who emigrated to Western PA to work in the mines, and, if they were fortunate, better paying jobs in the steel mills. The Zemplens (the Carpatho-Russians) are Greek Catholic and would more than likely have attended Sts. Peter & Paul Greek Catholic Church (on First Street, then later off of Catherine St.) An interesting side note is the fact the Zemps played the famous Negro League team, the Homestead Greys. I’ve often thought that we had a unique experience living and interacting with people of different ethnic and racial makeups which perhaps informed who we are since, at that time, blacks had to form their own leagues to have the opportunity to play the game (until baseball was integrated) I smiled thinking of the truck driving around announcing a game.

    • Beth Pastrick Keane says:

      THanks for sharing all of the info!

    • Dave Forgash DHS '62 says:

      Your instincts about different ethnic and racial makeups in Duquesne remind me of so many things. I grew up next to the black Daniels family who owned the apartment building on Grant Avenue next door to the apartment we lived in. Over the years, I played ball every day with black kids from the many black familys living next door, Charles, Singletons, Love, Pitts, and the Settles, who lived behind us. John Moore taught me how to play chess. I was taught to always refer to the black parents as Mr. or Mrs.
      In high school Mr. Edwards fed me at his apartment in Cochrondale Project, and his son Tim and I played on the DHS football team. I did not know what prejudice was, never heard the word back then. We had several black kids on the Little league Teams. There were no black kids on the my high school baseball team, no black kids on my Legion Baseball team, but the Zemps was a different story. Gary Christian was a great black player from McKeesport High and he had no where to play semi-pro baseball so I asked him to join the Zemps, which he did. He was an outstanding hitter playing first base and centerfield and helped us win the DNL 63 Championship. After that I played in the coal miner’s league in Ohio and West Virginia to be close to college and there were good black players on all those rugged teams. Then off to West Liberty State College and no black players on our baseball team, actually there were but a handful of black students in the school with an enrollment of about 1500. The black kids did play football, like Bob Douglas who went on to a great wrestling and coaching career, including the Olympics.
      Now it is 1964 in St Joe, Missouri and West Liberty is in the finals for the NAIA championship and we have to beat Grambling College of Louisiana twice to win the title. Because of discrimination at colleges all across the USA at that time, Grambling ended up with some of the best black athletes in the country. Grambling was undoubtedly the best team we had faced in all my four years of playing college baseball. This all black team could pitch, hit, field, and throw just like the pros. Won’t bore you with the details but West Liberty, this little college from the hillside fields outside of Wheeling, West Virginia defeats Grambling twice, 6-4 and 3-2, and wins the NAIA Championship.
      Four of the Grambling Players signed pro contracts and went on to pro careers. Three from West Liberty sign pro contracts, with only Joe Niekro having reached the majors.
      I have always remained grateful to Bill Vizza my High School Baseball Coach for going the extra miles to get me into college. He actually drove me to West Liberty and lobbied the college to accept me to play Baseball and Football.

  4. Wendy Kingsland says:

    That’s my grandfather Sam Carr in the first row! It is so awesome to read things about him – thanks so much for finding and sharing these things! They are priceless!

  5. Denise Ponist Tovlin says:

    Wow…that’s my dad in the first row. He always talked about playing with the Zemps but I never saw any pictures of him with the team. So nice to see this. Thanks, Jim.

  6. Lolly says:

    Hi Jim,

    FYI: Your brother, Steve, also pitched for the Duquesne Zemps for many years in the sixties.

    Let’s go Buccos !

  7. Beth Pastrick Keane says:

    Lots of articles in the daily news..especially since it was the Daily News League that they com
    peted in later on.

  8. Beth Pastrick Keane says:

    My father, George “Skinny” Pastrick, coached the Zemps when they competed in the Daily News League. My brother, David, played as well..he, too, was a catcher. My father also announced the games, at the field (for the pleasure of all the fans) as well as around town “THere will be a fast semi pro baseball game tonight…” Bucky Sable was also coaching with my Dad…. He loved the Zemps..My brother went on to play in College and earned all american .

    • Sam Gizzi says:

      I remember hearing as well as seeing your dad driving around Duquesne in his truck with the bullhorn on top announcing the upcoming Zemps game.

    • Dave Forgash says:

      Who could ever forget George Pastrick. Not only
      did he announce Zemp games. (Fast semi pro meant
      7 innings) He also did Little League games
      on second street and when the tornado hit
      Duquesne in the 50’s he was on the front line driving his
      sound truck around town and announcing to residents to stay in doors as there
      were live wires laying around town. He showed outdoor
      movies in the summer evenings at different schools
      around town with the help of Tim Petrisko and his sons.
      Skinny loved Duquesne and was part of a clique
      that met on the benches in front of City Hall,
      many “suggestions” were made by this influential group
      of men and adopted by elected officials. Go against
      them and your term in office could be in jeopardy as was
      the case of one term Mayor Joe Sabol.
      This group of influence did not ask for
      anything and recieved nothing. They simply
      hoped the best for Duquesne. Then as we
      know the mills closed and the rest as we read in this blog is history.

      • Beth Pastrick Keane says:

        Thank you for sharing your memories of my Dad. It fills my heart …and I never knew that “a fast semi pro baseball game” meant 7 innings. I use to feel really special sitting in that old “soundtruck,”as he called the old stationwagon, driving around town or sitting inside with him while he announced the games. I too loved summer movies and cartoons at the playgrounds. He loved Duquesne.. Thanks again….its always wonderful to hear others remember my Dad…I learned some things I didn’t know.

      • Richard Sabol says:

        Let the record show that Mr. Forgash’s rewrites Duquesne’s history. Mayor Joseph Sabol moved on to run for a higher office and, as a minority party representative, almost became the first Slovak-American elected to the United States House of Representatives.

  9. Ron Macosko says:

    My mom & dad were avid Zemps fans. I remember attending games at Nick Lee Hollow with them. Also remember throwing stones into Nick Lee hollow creek. Wasn’t allowed to go down under the bridge because that’s where ” Chicago Mike” lived……….lol…

    PS. Does anyone know who Nick Lee was?

    • Bob Chermonitz says:

      Ron I’ve yet to discover who Nick Lee was. However, I have discovered that it was originally called Oliver’s Hollow. I would love to know why the change I’m name.

      • Drew Cheke says:

        Bob , I have asked the same question , and Jim is looking into the history of the area , as well as some information on Nick Lee , the man. I believe that in the past there was a a large outdoor swimming pool made of railroad ties (maybe the 20’s or 30’s) and a set of stairs that went from the upper part of Hamilton (?) down to Nick Lee Hollow which people walked to get to Kennywood (and probably to work in the mill or on the railroad also) . . . I believe that there was a cintering plant somewhere up in Nick Lee Hollow and also The Grant Steel Scrap Company . . . please correct me if anyone has anything to add or correct to this information . . . Thanks !

  10. Bob Dougherty says:

    Interesting photo. You can see the spires of St, Joseph’s Church in the background. Sitting at the top of Grant Avenue, St. Joe’s dominated (and probably still does -if it hasn’t been razed) the city’s skyline. Judging from the fact that you can see the church in the background the picture was probably taken at the Polish Hill field. Before playing their home games at that site, the Zemps played their home games at the Nick lee Hollow field which sat below 2nd, 3rd and 4th streets. My favorite player was the catcher, Bobby Charmo, who I believe had a try out with the Pittsburgh Pirates

    • Jack Schalk says:

      Outstanding Bob, that you were able to pick out the spires of Old St. Josephs.
      My connection with the Zemps only went as far as being the paper boy for most of the supporters. I did enjoy the games though.

  11. Jane Cappellano says:

    I read several names that are VERY FAMILIAR to me (who lived in The Annex, near Duquesne Fire Hall): Marino, petruski,Spanitz,ReaganBenedict,Marino,Galvanek. Went to Duquesne High for 10th grade the our WMNorth High was finished and was first grad. class from North. I am ADDICTED TO THIS INFO. I notice it is VERY SPORADIC AND I FOUND IT purely by accident from SIL’s FB page. Sent to my Bro Koe in Cal. He enjoyed it too. Keep up the GREAT SITE!!! As I said “it’saddictive(for me)!!

    Jane Cappellano

  12. Ken Denne says:

    I was fortunate to play with the Zemps in the mid and late fifties. Some of the players who were the early and champions Zemps I was fortunate to play with..Albie Ragan, Rudy SAchaffer, Tippy Spanitz, Happy Magdic, Johnny Galvanek, Duke Dyakon,Bobby Petrisko, Ducky Goltz, Bobby Kloska, et. al

    • Sam Gizzi says:

      Hi Ken, I watched the Zemps play for a number of years, probably until the late fifties. Hope all is well with you and your family.

  13. David Forgash says:

    Jim, Sent you a photo (of a photo) from the 1963 Daily News File photos highlighting the Duquesne Zemps team that won their 10th DNL Title beating The McKeesport Tigers to win the 63 title. Names of the players coaches and bat boys is included. Many great players and friends from the surrounding towns of Clairton, Blids, Cokers, Tubers made up the league in 63. What a great time we all had back then and no one even knew how to spell steroids. Possibly the photo is from the McKeesport Daily News.

    Dave Forgash Catcher for the Zemps

    On Aug 9, 2013, at 5:08 PM, The Duquesne Hunky wrote:

    > >

  14. Sam Gizzi says:

    When I was a kid, my dad and I attended many of the Zemps games at the old Nick Lee Hollow field.

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