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Old baseball uniforms emerge after column on St. Mary’s Athletic Club

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 12 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Volume 1, Issue 37 supplement

(Editor’s Note: This week’s column for Old-Time Orleans is a supplemental issue connected to last week’s piece on the St. Mary’s Athletic Club baseball team.)

On occasion, my weekly column flushes out a piece of related local history. New photographs, documents, records, and even artifacts have surfaced thanks to the willingness of the Orleans Hub and Batavia Daily News to publish the column every week.

I greatly appreciate the feedback, both positive and negative, regarding the content of each piece and hope that the community continues to provide these responses.

Following the publication of my most recent article, I received several photographs from Clarendon Town Historian Melissa Ierlan of several baseball uniforms. The pieces were loaned to her by Larry and Brenda Swanger, who graciously allowed the uniforms to be cleaned and displayed in Clarendon.

Without a doubt, the uniforms are the exact style worn by the players from last week’s photograph so I thought it would be fitting to not only share images of these amazing artifacts, but provide some additional insight into the formation of the St. Mary’s Athletic Club in Albion.

In 1912 a local Polish Roman Catholic Union branch was established in Albion thanks to the diligent work of Frank Turski of Buffalo and Rev. Charles Mioduszewski of St. Mary’s Assumption Parish in Albion. It was on Sunday, Dec. 1, 1912 that a delegation of PRCU members from Buffalo including Turski, Antoni Kazmierczak, Frank Andrezjewski, and Jacob Graczyk arrived in Albion to install the organization’s newest branch in Western New York.

Established at Chicago in 1873 by Rev. Teodor Gieryk and Rev. Wincenty Barczynski, the PRCU was active in developing social programs aimed at supporting widows, orphans, and the needy. Nearly a decade later the organization developed an insurance program, similar to the Knights of Columbus, and led the way in promoting gender equality in fraternal organizations. Many branches, including Albion’s Branch 654, promoted local sporting events and sponsored teams throughout major cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Buffalo.

We can see that one uniform is marked St. Mary’s P.R.C.U. A.C., representing the St. Mary’s PRCU Athletic Club, the precursor to the officially established St. Mary’s Athletic Club now located on Moore Street in Albion.

Both shirts include a patch on the left sleeve, a gold circular patch with crossed flags, a heart, and shield. The patch, the crest of the PRCU, contains a Polish flag and United States flag crossed with the Sacred Heart and Polish Falcon. The crest shows the assimilation into American society that many Poles sought while retaining their religious and cultural heritage. The St. Mary’s Athletic Club officially established itself in 1924 as a men’s social club, strange considering the height of prohibition at the time.

The organization existed as an extension of the local Polish Catholic Church until the 1940s when the Athletic Club cut ties with the Parish. Expressing distaste for the debauchery and poor behavior of those drinking at the club, some parishioners voiced a concern that many men would consume alcohol at the St. Mary’s Club, stagger uptown, and draw unwanted and unwarranted attention to the church.

The organization continues to support baseball programs locally and until recently, provided death benefits for “regular” members who could claim Polish lineage.