Polish Music and Dancing at Comerica Park, 46th Annual Event

DETROIT – It was the 46th annual Polish-American Night at Comerica Park and Chris Ozog emceed the festive event. About 30,000 were in attendance for the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays. New this year was the Wayne State University Polish Club and Friends of Polish Art. They joined the 380 dancers on the field along with the Polish Scouts, who handled the Honor Guard.

Polish Night: Wayne State University Polish Club.
Polish Night: Wayne State University Polish Club.

Before the game, Ozog talked with Jim Price of the Tigers Radio Network. Ozog said, “The National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame will have a display on the concourse near the rightfield foul pole. The NPASHF will be having their induction banquet June 23, 2016 at the American Polish Cultural Center in Troy, Michigan. One of this year’s honored inductees will be Ann Meyers-Drysdale. She is the widow of Dodger great Don Drysdale, who died in July of 1993. He was elected to the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in 1984.”

Price asked about updates regarding the fields that Stan Musial developed at Kutno, Poland for Little League Baseball and about Tom Paciorek’s new children’s book, “THE MAGIC BAT.” The Polish National Youth Baseball Foundation will benefit from the proceeds of the graphic novel as will the Teaching English in Poland project coordinated by the Kosciuszko Foundation.

Ozog listed the music entertainers for the radio audience. They included the Big Daddy Lackowski & His La-Dee-Da Orchestra, the Kielbasa Kings, the Steve Drzewicki Band, the Natural Tones and accordion stylings presented by John Orischak. Price was surprised to learn that baseball and softball are played at 36 locations throughout Poland.

Dick Enberg, the Hall of Fame broadcaster, commented how tasty the angel wings (chrusciki) were in the press box before the game. The commissary had five bakery boxes of the fresh delicate pastry for the out-of-town press corps to sample.

Polish Night: Ray Orlowski throws first pitch.
Polish Night: Ray Orlowski throws first pitch.

Ted Klamerus, marketing manager for the PRCUA, was at the first Polish-American Night at Tiger Stadium 45 years ago. “The Reverend Ted Blaszczyk was a driving force to make this happen,” he said. “Then Wally Ozog brought it forward.”

The fraternal sponsors, the Polish National Alliance, the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America and the Polish Women’s Alliance of America awarded scholarships to Ashley Fruehauf, Hanna Grove, Kristen Karwan, Danielle Krass and Kaitlynn LaDuke. Miss Paulina Kowalczyk, 2016-Miss Polonia World took ‘selfies’ with interested girls on the concourse. She is a recent graduate of Wayne State.

Stella Szczesny of the PNA commented on how good the dancers looked on the scoreboard screen. “Especially the younger ones. This is a great experience for them.” Barbara Lemecha of the Polish American Congress Michigan Division concurred wholeheartedly, “What a great experience for these young people. This is all about keeping up traditions, celebrating heritage.”

Longtime Polish heritage supporter Ray Okonski threw out the ceremonial first pitch. “This is quite an honor. I’ll get it to the plate but it may be underhand.” A native Detroiter, Okonski graduated from Cass Tech in 1944. He retired from United Technologies.

Brian Malski of the Friends of Polish Art mingled with the Wayne State students on the concourse. “This is a great event to celebrate our Polish .heritage and celebrate Polish customs and culture,” said Malski.

The fifty-fifty raffle put on by Ilitch Charities at Comerica Park took in $20,533 and a portion was donated to the NPASHF. Despite two massive homeruns by Miguel Cabrera the Rays topped the Tigers 7-5.

The parking area for Comerica Park was congested because of the M-1 rail project being constructed adjacent to Woodward Ave. Also it was a full house at the Fox Theater with the presentation of “Beauty and the Beast.” The streets were vibrant with traffic and congestion with more on the way.

It will include a new neighbor for Comerica Park, Little Caesars Arena. It will be the home to the Detroit Red Wings and other entertainment events. Little Caesars Arena will feature a dramatic arena bowl and will cost upwards of 627 million dollars. Little Caesars Arena will also feature state-of-the-art technology and spectacular spectator amenities including shopping destinations. Little Caesars Arena, the crown jewel of the 50-block revitalization project known as The District Detroit, will open in the fall of 2017.

Raymond Rolak
Raymond Rolak is a veteran sports broadcaster who writes on a range of sporting events, plus automotive and aviation topics of interest.