March 28 – Amsterdam Birthday Bits

vicraschicard-thumb-200x278-2770671Happy Birthday Vic Raschi – He was the very best Yankee to ever play for the Rugmakers, New York’s Class C Canadian-American League affiliate here in Amsterdam. In fact, between 1948 and 1953, Vic Raschi would be considered by many to be the best right-handed starting pitcher in all of baseball. On his Major League resume, he had put together three straight 21-win seasons and helped the Bronx Bombers capture a record five straight World Series  trophies.But back in the spring and summer of 1941, he was a shy 22-year-old member of the Rugmaker roster pitching in his first ever season of professional baseball. His full name was Victor John Angelo Raschi and he had been born to Italian immigrant parents on March 28, 1918. As a high school-er, his blazing fastball had earned him a scholarship to the College of William & Mary, where he caught the attention of Yankee scouts who signed him and sent him to Amsterdam. His Italian-American heritage and his impressive heater made him an instant favorite with Amsterdam fans. Their cheers for Raschi were bittersweet ones because as he was compiling a 10-6 record and loads of strikeouts that season, they knew his success would get him promoted to another team in another town.

FatherWozniak222Father Clement Wozniak – Born in Amsterdam on March 28, 1916, he went to St. Stanislaus School as a child, graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1934 and then decided to enter the priesthood. He ended up at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado, which explains why after he was ordained in 1946, he was assigned to various parishes in that state before becoming the first full-time chaplain of the Colorado State Hospital. He had just been reassigned to the pastorship of St. Patrick’s parish in La Junta, CO, when he died suddenly at the age of just 48. His father, Frank Wozniak and five sisters; Adele Jabczanka, Sophie Andrzejewki, Freda Orleanski, Clara Boroski, and Mary Piska survived him.

bartholomew-freddie-little-lord-fauntleroyDid you ever hear of Freddie Bartholomew? Unless you are at least as old as me, probably not but he happened to be one of the most famous child-movie stars of all-time. In fact, during the zenith of his Hollywood career, he was as popular as Shirley Temple. Freddie was born on March 28, 1924 in England. When the legendary MGM producer, David O Selznick was casting the lead role for his movie “David Copperfield,” he could not find an American child actor who spoke with a good enough English accent so he went to England and brought back young eight-year-old Freddie, who at the time was a child stage actor. Both Selznick’s screen adaptation of the Dickens novel and Freddie were hits and when he followed that role up with starring roles in Little Lord Fauntleroy and Captains Courageous, Bartholomew became one of the hottest stars in the cinema. Unfortunately for him, he could not remain a child forever and as he grew into adulthood his appeal on screen diminished and even more tragically, he discovered that his family and his lawyers had taken all of his money. In an effort to resurrect his acting career and make some much-needed cash he decided to return to the stage. That’s why he came to Amsterdam, NY on January 9, 1948, to appear in his first-ever nation wide stage performance in the play “The Hasty Heart,” which was being presented at the Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School Auditorium by the Amsterdam Business & Professional Women’s Club. Also appearing in the cast was Richard Boone, who would later star in the popular television western, “Paladin.” In the play Bartholomew played a young and bitter Scottish soldier, who was dying from serious wounds suffered in battle. Unfortunately, according to a review of the play that appeared in the Recorder, Amsterdam did not turn out for the production and the unnamed author of the piece took his fellow citizens to task for their lack of appreciation for the opportunity. Bartholomew never returned to the level of stardom he enjoyed as a child actor. He died in Florida in 1992.

One thought on “March 28 – Amsterdam Birthday Bits

  1. Poor Freddie. When Hollywood made the play into a picture the next year the part went to Richard Todd who was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor, and won a Golden Globe as Best Newcomer. The play’s author was John Patrick. Todd’s co-stars in the movie were Patricia Neal and Ronald Reagan.

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