by Marlys Kruger
Last September, all of you faithful readers should remember a story I wrote on Joe Niese, a sports author from Chippewa Falls who was in the process of writing a book on Boyceville native and former professional baseball player Andy Pafko. Because of the high cost of publishing the book, especially with the photos he wanted to use that were owned by other sources, Niese was having problems coming up with enough funds to complete the book.
Using the Kickstarter campaign website which allowed anyone to make donations to the project, Niese found out there were more then just a few fans of Pafko who were willing to help him finish the book.
“I received more then enough in donations to complete the book,” Niese said while signing copies of the book for members of the Boyceville community at the public library Feb. 26, which would have been Pafko’s 94th birthday. “But the extra donations allowed me to add on more details and some extra photos that I think make the book a lot more interesting,” he added. Niese has sold over 100 copies of the book so far, including more then 50 by 4:00 at the book signing.
The book is very detailed with just about every stat that could be found on Pafko, starting from his early years playing in Dunn County and going all the way through his 17 years of professional time with the Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers and Milwaukee Braves. There is also plenty of history on his three major league teams as well as interesting stories on Pafko and most of his teammates from his professional days. When asked how he came about finding the information, Niese commented:
“Well, I have to say it was very time consuming and I needed help from many sources,” he said with a laugh. “Most of the stats I found on the internet but being a librarian, I read a lot of autobiographies of other baseball players, coaches and team owners, and I read a lot of magazine articles that had to do with baseball during Andy’s time to gain information. But a big part, especially concerning his early days, came from his friends and family around Boyceville. It was a long process but I loved writing it and I think Andy (who passed away Oct. 8, 2013) would be happy with the final result.”
Also attending the book signing was Andy’s nephew, Frank Pafko, Jr. Frank grew up in the Twin Cities and is now retired from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
“I had a few chances to see Uncle Andy play in Milwaukee,” he said. “I remember having a chance to go to the locker room to meet players from the 1958 team, but I was very shy and didn’t want to go. I could kick myself now, because there were some pretty famous players on that team,” he added.
After Frank’s dad passed away last year, he found several photos of family members with Andy at various baseball functions, including some at the Chicago Cubs All Century Team celebration, of which Andy was named to. He had several of the photos at the book signing.
“One of the interesting stories about Andy happened long after his playing days,” Frank said. “In 1998, there was a huge baseball card auction and someone had opened a pack of Topps baseball cards that had been in their possession for years. In the pack was an Andy Pafko card, and it happened to be Card Number 1 in the first ever pack of Topps cards. The card sold for over $83,000 dollars. The highest salary Andy ever made was $35,000 when he played for the Dodgers in 1950,” he added with a chuckle.
Niese is currently working on a new book about Gus Dorais, a graduate of Chippewa Falls High School. Dorais (who the football field over there is named after), was a quarterback for Notre Dame, and in 1913 he was a big factor in developing the forward pass while practicing with a pretty famous teammate named Knute Rockne.
“Gus’ nephew has been working on a book about him so I will be co-writing it with him,” he said. “I don’t have as much time to write as I would like but I will continue to do so as long as I have interesting people in the local sports world to write about,” he said.
Niese will attend several more gatherings to promote his book, including large conventions in Minneapolis and Chicago, as well as smaller venues such as the Colfax Public library in May.
Niese also will be presenting about his book on Sunday, March 15, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. at the Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum (1820 Wakanda Street in Menomonie’s Wakanda Park).
“It is obvious to me there are a lot of people who remember and loved Andy,” he said. “And as long as there are folks around who want to read his story and learn more about him, I am willing to take time to talk to them,” he concluded.