Who are the greatest sibling athletes in Amsterdam, New York’s history? That’s a difficult question for anyone to answer but one thing is for sure, the one’s I’ve recognized in this Top Ten Bonus List are worthy of consideration. In today’s post, I preview two of my picks.
The Kuczek Brothers – Jack Tracy deserves to be described as “the legendary Amsterdam High School Varsity baseball coach.” He developed some of the greatest teams in Capital District scholastic sports history during his three-decade tenure mentoring purple and gold baseball beginning in the 1930’s. But if he were still around today, he’d be the first to tell you that he owed much of his success as AHS skipper to two Polish Immigrants named Joe and Agnes Kuczek. Their six sons anchored the infields of about fifteen years worth of Tracy’s most successful teams. John and Ben Kuczek came first in the mid thirties. John was a first baseman and Ben the first of three great shortstops the family would produce. The middle two, Eddie and Steve were probably the most talented of the siblings. Tracy called second baseman Eddie the greatest all-around player he ever coached and shortstop Steve was the only one of the Kuczek’s to make it to the big leagues. The two anchored the middle of the infield for two straight years worth of undefeated Tracy teams. Mack came along next. He was a great hitter, played a solid third base and was the best pitcher in the family. The baby brother was Bernie Kuczek, an outstanding hitter and outfielder who extended the Kuczek AHS diamond legacy into the 1950’s. And talk about a family serving its country, the five oldest Kuczek’s all served in the US Army during World War II. Eddie, Steve and Bernie all went on to play collegiate ball for Colgate. The Kuczek’s were not one dimensional when it came to sports either. They were also outstanding ice skaters and starred on local hockey and speed skating teams.
Dolly and Costa Lazarou – Greek immigrants Michael and Bessie Lazarou were both employed in the Sanford rug mills and raised a family consisting of five sons and a daughter in their home on Amsterdam’s Arnold Avenue. All of the Lazarou siblings were gifted physically but it was the youngest two boys Aristotle (a.k.a.Dolly) and Costa who shined as athletes. Dolly was a legend in Amsterdam’s Knot Hole League, one of this city’s very first youth baseball organizations. By the time he got to high school, his blazing fastball helped Amsterdam’s varsity baseball team go on a two-year unbeaten streak. Then in 1942, he signed a contract to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals and in his debut season in the minors he went 3-2 for the Cards’ Jamestown, NY affiliate. Meanwhile his baby brother Costa was becoming one of the all-time great three-sport athletes in Amsterdam High School history as a quarterback in football, a point guard in basketball and the greatest catcher in the school’s history on the baseball diamond. Several big league teams were interested in signing Costa and Rug City sports fans were hoping that the Lazarou brothers would become Amsterdam’s version of the DiMaggio’s some day. But World War II got in the way. Dolly enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and Costa followed him in ’45, joining that same branch of the service smack in the middle of his senior season of AHS basketball.
They both returned home safely but the disruption to their careers dashed their hopes of playing Major League baseball. So instead they dominated Amsterdam’s semi-pro ranks for the next two decades, turning Mohawk Mills Park into a brotherly fiefdom. Both were considered among the best golfers in town and you didn’t want to wager either of them in a bowling match either, especially Dolly. Both of them are gone now but the Lazarou high school sports bloodline still flows in this community. Their great niece Olivia Lazarou was the Foothills Council Champion in Girls’ Cross Country in 2017 and finished second in this year’s Section II finals.
I have eight more memorable sets of Great Amsterdam Sports Siblings on my newest Bonus List. I will share them all via the next issue of my newsletter. This will be the fourth Amsterdam NY Top Ten BONUS List I’ve completed and it will be distributed to all those folks who purchase a copy of my new book; Fifty Amsterdam, NY Top Ten Lists. If you purchased the book, I will be e-mailing you a copy of this complete list some time during the next three weeks. If you’d like to order a copy of the book before then so you can receive this Bonus List plus all the additional bonus lists I’ll be distributing during the next 12 months, you can order your copy here.