It was more like a Grand Slam. The movie preview that is. It was the first showing of the short documentary, "The Legend of Pinky Deras: The Greatest Little-Leaguer There Ever Was." Players from the 1959 Hamtramck Little League National Champions and the 1961 Hamtramck Pony League National Champions were celebrated. These were mostly second generation Polish-Americans and Pinky carried the load for both of these championship teams.
Former Major Leaguer, Tom Paciorek highlighted the film with his great praise for Deras. The statistics back him up and then some. During that 1959 summer, Deras hit .641 with 33 home runs and 112 RBI’s. "When Deras pitched, you couldn’t see the ball," said Paciorek. "And when he hit, well, you had better walk him or it was a home run." Most remember Paciorek as the longtime Chicago White Sox broadcaster.
Paciorek should know. Besides broadcasting baseball, he has the pedigree. He was an 18 year MLB veteran, and was an ‘All-Star’ in 1981 with Seattle.
The evening was supposed to be about celebrating Art "Pinky" Deras. He wouldn’t hear of it as he shared the spotlight with his former teammates. The players in attendance received a standing ovation. "That’s Pinky," said Robert Miller, a 1961 Pony League Championship teammate. "He was humble then and he is humble now."
One of the great anecdotes of the evening was when Deras recalled his professional California League playing days; he went out for dinner one night with Tom and John Paciorek. "I think we were in Modesto, which was pretty heady stuff for three kids from Hamtramck. That was the 60’s and I was probably a bit too free spirited. I really looked up to John. He was a great player." John Paciorek has a special footnote in baseball history, as he has the listing for the highest batting average in the ‘Baseball Register’. Another lost to history detail was that the Deras family name had originally been spelled Darasz.
The movie presentation had rare footage of the 1959 Championship game between Auburn, California and Hamtramck. Kevin Deras (Art’s son) located the "lost" 16-millimeter film at the Little League archives in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Mark Modich, another longtime teammate said, "We were good as a team, but Pinky just had that much more talent."
Deras kept shifting the spotlight from himself. "Don’t forget Sid Cline pitched a great second game," said the tall pitcher. "Hawaii had just become a State so there was a lot of excitement."
"I was big for my age, everyone caught up," he added smiling. In the 1959 Finals, Hamtramck won three straight, Puerto Rico, Honolulu and Auburn. It was on Aug. 29, 1959 when Deras pitched that championship game, a 12-0 shutout. In all, Hamtramck won 13 straight games in their journey. The mostly Polish-American community of Hamtramck went wild. Their native son’s were Little League National Champions.
In the preview there were scenes from the nationally televised, "The Lawrence Welk Show" that the players appeared on and never before seen shots of the 1961 Pony League Championship from Washington, Pennsylvania. One of the players even danced with the prominent "Champagne Ladies." Dodge of Chrysler Motors was a national sponsor for the Welk show and, because there was a Dodge-Main (factory) connection to Hamtramck, the advertising agency pulled it all together.
Deceased and heralded educator Joe Piasecki was remembered fondly for being such a great teammate. Also, the other catcher, Greg Pniewski said, "I had to catch those fastballs and Pinky threw the equivalent of over 100 mile per hour."
The evening was sponsored by the Hamtramck Recreation Department and high praise went out to former Director Frank Wysoki, who was so instrumental in the achievements of the Hamtramck baseball programs.
Deras emphasized how successful the Hamtramck High School baseball teams were in the old Twin Valley Conference and former Detroit Tiger, Ike Blessitt, who was in attendance, agreed wholeheartedly.
The writers and directors of the movie were present and moderated a spirited question and answer session. Buddy Moorehouse and Brian Kruger introduced narrator, Oliver Darrow. The large crowd gave the film makers another standing ovation. "We are still editing and will make a few more tweaks," said Kruger, President of stunt3-multimedia.
The movie also highlighted the special recognition award the National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame gave to the 1959 Hamtramck Little League National Champions. "I didn’t save many mementos, but I have my photo with Stan Musial from when I was at spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals," said Deras.
Deras retired recently after spending 30 years as a Warren Public Safety Officer.
Paciorek reiterated, "Pinky was the best 12-year-old baseball player ever and he was the best 14-year-old baseball player ever. I have seen many and he was the best. We had the support of the whole community."
The film was previewed on ABC-TV affiliates and in Detroit before the ABC-ESPN presentation of the 2010 Little League World Series.
Copies of the DVD, which is expected to be 42 minutes long, will be available at http://www.stunt3.com .
The 1959 Hamtramck Little League National Champions were:
John Chester, Charles Cline, Sid Cline, Richard Dembeck, Art Deras, Reginald Ferrebee, William Heald, Kenneth Jones, Steven Lepkowski, Michael Milewski, Mark Modich, Joseph Piasecki, Eugene Pionkowski, James Polich, Gregory Pniewski, Matthew Przytoysz and Mark Scott
Raymond Rolak, Detroit, Michigan
(Raymond Rolak was a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals)