By Kelsie Hoitomt
Baseball legend and Boyceville’s small town hero, Andy Pafko, passed away last week at the age of 92 while in the comfort of his room at a nursing home in Stevensville, Michigan.
Pafko’s name may have been known across the great Midwest for his big-league baseball career, but the story of the legend all began in Boyceville.
Andy was born on February 25, 1921 in Boyceville to Mike and Susie. He was the first of five children, all boys, to be born in America.
His parents came to the states from the city of Vazec, which is now known as Slovakia. They moved to Boyceville where they lived on a 200 acre dairy farm.
It was after high school that Andy dove into baseball with his first playing experience as a member of the Connorsville team that played in the amateur Dunn County League in 1939.
He played a few years in a smaller leagues in the state before officially hitting it big in 1941 when his contract was purchased by Bill Veeck, who was the owner of the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers team at the time.
His career then took him out of the state after his contract was sold to the Cubs’ Farm Club in Los Angeles. He made his debut with the Cubs in 1943 and that began his 17 year career in the Major Leagues.
While in the MLB, he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 and then again changed uniforms in 1953 after being traded to the Milwaukee Braves, who were moving from Boston to Milwaukee at the time.
One of the most famous moments Pafko may be known for was during the 1951 season when the Dodgers played the Giants and Bobby Thomson hit the “shot heard round the world” to clinch the National League pennant. His home run went right over the head of Pafko who was in left field.
Pafko finished his career in 1959 as a five-time All Star with a .285 batting average, over 200 home runs and nearly 1,000 RBIs.
Before passing, he was one of only two living players who had played in a World Series game for the Cubs.
After retiring from playing, Andy went on to be a coach for the Milwaukee Braves for three years. Then he became a minor league manager for teams in New York, Houston, North Carolina and West Palm, Florida.
It was after some years of that that Andy returned to Illinois where he settled in Mount Prospect, which is a suburb of Chicago. His house boarded a golf course and that is how Andy became a spotter and starter there for several years.
He then did some scouting for the old Montreal Expos for a few years before he officially retired at home.
It was then roughly four years ago that a nephew of his offered to keep a watchful eye over him if he would move to a local nursing home. That nursing home was the one Andy lived in until his passing.
Despite never living back in Boyceville, he still made a point to visit his hometown. He continues to be a legend in Boyceville, which is clearly noticeable as Andy Pafko Park is named after him and there is a memorial in his name at the current high school baseball field.
The park was dedicated to Andy in 1986 after a committee spent over a year working on the project. Pafko and his wife were able to attend the crowded ceremony and the man of honor even gave a very nice acceptance speech, shared his friend Dave Laberee.
Laberee became a close friend of Andy’s after they rode the same bus together to school and then they reconnected during the process of naming the park.
Laberee shared that Andy was a great guy and he never let the fame get to his head as he always stayed a real down to earth person.
There are currently no relatives of Andy’s in the Boyceville area. His wife, Ellen passed away in 2000 and they had no children. However, he had many friends, including Laberee that he remained in touch with for years.
According to Laberee, there is currently a man from Chippewa Falls that is writing a book about Andy that is to be published in hopefully a year’s time.
The passing of Andy Pafko has been heard across the entire United States as newspapers from the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Milwaukee Journal, the Chicago Tribune, Fox Sports and even ABC News (to name a few) have written articles on the great baseball legend.
The funeral for Andy was held near his old home in Illinois during the afternoon of Monday, October 14.