Wednesday, September 4, 2013

George Daniel Testimonial Banquet – June 1958

Yesterday I mentioned that George Daniel Field (shown above with its brand new paint job) was dedicated in June 1958. Well, here's the front page article all about it from the Friday, June 6, 1958 Lorain Journal, written by Hank Kozloski (who passed away earlier this year).

Major League Baseball executive Branch Rickey – well known for breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier by hiring Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers – was a guest at the banquet honoring George Daniel.


300 Honor "Danny;" Recreation Stadium Renamed For Him

A BACKWARD GLANCE – George Daniel, left, and 
Branch Rickey, a baseball legend in his own lifetime and
now an executive with the Pittsburgh Pirates, turn back
the clock to the days when Rickey was Daniel's coach at 
Ohio Wesleyan University. (Photo by Hank Kozkoski)
Recreation Stadium was given a new name last night and Lorain was graced by a "surprise" visit from one of the most colorful, and sometimes controversial, men in baseball.

"The Home of the Steelers" unofficially was renamed George Daniel Field in honor of the retiring director of physical education of Lorain Public Schools.

Announcement of the renaming was made by George Parks, president of the Lorain Board of Education, at the "extremely successful" George Daniel Testimonial Banquet at Moose Hall.

More than 300 guests and friends of Daniel, including Daniel himself, were especially thrilled, however, when just before the main dinner Mr. and Mrs. Branch Rickey walked into Moose Hall to help honor "The Grand Old Man of Ohio Athletics."

The stadium will be officially dedicated to Danny at the next regular meeting of the school board. Parks told the gathering it had been approved at an informal session, but the press and radio had been asked to  "keep it secret" until last night.

He said, "It is my great pleasure to bring to you at this time information regarding an issue which was discussed at a recent meeting of the board."

"The Lorain City Board of Education, in recognition of the years of faithful service and devotion to duty as exemplified by George Daniel does hereby concur and agree unanimously in the following resolution:

"Be it resolved that the athletic facilities of the Lorain Board of Education, now known as Recreation Field, be henceforth known as George Daniel Field, and that a plaque so designating the dedication be erected at a suitable location within these facilities."

Parks presented Daniel with a bronze plaque whcih stated simply: George Daniel Field, June 12, 1958. The date signifies Daniel's retirement date. It will be placed permanently at the stadium at a later date.

The proposal for the renaming was first made by three Lorain High School head coaches: Don White, track; Art Lave, football; and Tony Misko, baseball.

Although best known as the man who "broke the color line" when he signed Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rickey first gained national acclaim as one of the founders of the famed St. Louis Cardinals Gashouse Gang.

After leaving the Dodgers, he became president of the Pittsburgh Pirates and still holds an executive position with the Bucs. He came to Lorain directly from Pittsburgh and left here immediately to attend a board meeting at O.W.U.

Rickey, who suffered a coronary thrombosis less than a year ago, had been invited by Chairman Meyer Gordon, but business and his recent illness was expected to prevent his coming. He wrote to Gordon, "If I can make it, I'll just walk in."

The more than 300 persons attending, including more than 50 out-of-towners, in general felt his visit "really was the icing on the cake."

Although visibly a far cry from the robust Rickey of a little more than a year ago, Branch still displayed his overwhelming ability to captivate his audience with his eloquent and wonderfully humorous talks.

Despite constant glances from Mrs, Rickey, who didn't want him to overdo himself, Branch said, "I wouldn't have missed George's banquet for anything."

Rickey, who coached Daniel at Ohio Wesleyan University, told the group, "There were two boys in my early coaching days at Ohio Wesleyan – and the other fella should be here – George and Les Stouffer. I often thought that if I should have two sons, I should have liked them to be those two."

His admiration for Daniel was expressed in a typical Rickey remark: "I should congratulate you on having him rather than him having you."

Most of his talk – and he "emphatically" said before being handed the microphone that he'd "rather not talk" – was devoted to keeping the throng in an uproar. To say the least, Branch was an overwhelming hit.

One almost forgot that the main speaker was Carl V. Weygandt, chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, even though he, too, captivated the crowd during his brief appearance.

Judge Weygandt arrived late when his flight to Lorain, from Columbus in a private plane flown by Lorain attorney Joseph Zieba was interrupted by at least four rain squalls. Normally a 50-minute flight, it took almost an hour and a half.

After a hurried meal and a short talk, Judge Weygandt had to leave early because he "had a court session scheduled early in the morning." The judge, also a friend of Rickey, regretted having to miss "his old friend's talk."

He pointed out that "the characteristics a boy develops in athletics are often the ones he carries with him throughout his life."

Once an officiating partner with Daniel, he said, "I need only referee one game with a man and I can tell his character. In all the games Danny and I officiated together, he always called accurate plays."

"College coaches have it easy," he noted. "Boys learn all the fundamentals from men like George Daniel and the rest of the high school coaches, then all they do is give them the plays. Boys never lose what men like Danny teach them."

Paying special tribute to Daniel were Paul Bratton, chairman of the Lorain YMCA physical committee, who read a letter of commendation and presented him with a plaque. The banquet committee presented him with luggage.

William Councell, secretary of the Lake Erie League, presented a portable transistor radio from the league Daniel helped found and of which LHS was a charter member.

Atty. James Parobek, past president of the Lorain Booster Club, announced the club will fund an annual "Danny Award" and scholarship to be awarded to a boy "who excels on the athletic field and in the classroom throughout his high school career."

Also presented by Parobek was a huge, beautifully done sketch of Daniel by Clerk of Courts Frank Katrick. It was hung on the wall surrounded by the school colors, purple and lavender, for all to see.

Others taking part in the program were Mayor John C. Jaworski, the welcome address; Supt. of Schools John W. Evans, the school's farewell; Rev. Harry Snyder, pastor of the First Lutheran Church, the invocation, and judge of the Court of Common Pleas John Pincura, who introduced Judge Weygandt.

Daniel, who confessed to being "still puzzled," called the event "one of the biggest moments of my life. I only wish Mrs. Daniel were here to share it."

He closed the program by relating some of his "memories," then like Tiny Tim of Charles Dickens' immortal Christmas Carol, said, "God bless you, every one."

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