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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Jerry Lubanski Bazeball Classic

Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Detroit. On Van Dyke just off McNichols on the east side.
There have been a lot of mournful hymns in Mt. Olivet’s 100-plus years of existence, so the final tune that the Lubanski family busted out, joined in heartily by Reverend Edward Prus, was probably something a little new to the musical charts.
It was time for the final tearful goodbyes. It was also time for a rousing chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
One of the items left in the casket of Jerry Lubanski, who died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 69 in May of 2009, was a baseball with a note scrawled on it by Jerry and Kathleen’s oldest son, David.
Jerry and Kathleen Lubanski have three children; David, Jason and Susan. All three are graduates of Shrine High School in Royal Oak. Jerry Lubanski coached baseball for a couple of decades at Shrine; both at the grade school and high school.

David Lubanski (left) and Marty O'Neill will play in the Jerry Lubanski Bazeball Classic set for noon, Saturday, July 21, at Royal Oak High School. (Daily Tribune staff photo by Ray J. Skowronek)

“Dad loved baseball. He had a passion for baseball,” said David Lubanski. “He especially loved Shrine baseball and Tiger baseball.”
The inaugural Jerry Lubanski Bazeball Classic will be held Saturday, July 21, at the field at Royal Oak High School. While everybody is welcome, the diamond will be largely populated by players who took the field for Coach Lubanski. His coaching career at Shrine began in the early 1970s and he took over the varsity program in 1985.
Coach Lubanzki always pronounced it “bazeball.”
Interested players should dust off their mitts, spit shine the  bats, pop a couple of Advil and simply show up at the field. The game is slated to begin at noon.
“Consistency,” said Marty O’Neill, who graduated from Shrine in 1988. “That was the hallmark of every Jerry Lubanski team. I played for Coach Lubanski for six years, and I never missed a practice or a game. He just made the game fun.”
O’Neill played for Coach Lubanski from the seventh grade on. O’Neill, a State Farm insurance agent in Ferndale, has two kids.
“I can’t remember anyone ever quitting the team,” he said. “That is a remarkable testament to the coach.”
Jerry Lubanski was joined by Tony Andrus Sr. on the coaching staff at Shrine.
Kathleen Lubanski will throw the first pitch at Jerry Lubanski Bazeball Classic Saturday.
“We have probably heard from 50 people, and every one of them expressed an interest in playing,” said O’Neill. “Some said they could not make it because of other commitments. But even those guys indicated they would like to play next year if we have another game.”
Chances are, there will be another game. They will have the game because there is no better way to remember Jerry Lubanski. He grew up in Hamtramck when that community was a hotbed of baseball. He attended St. Ladislaus when eight of the nine starting players his senior year went on to play in college. Jerry Lubanski was among them. He went on to Central Michigan University.
Jerry Lubanski was a veteran of the U.S. Army. He worked security at Chrysler for years before retiring. After that, he took a job at Superior Fish.
“When we were just kids, my dad would take us all to the park to play baseball. Well, there was one kid in the neighborhood who would always harass me. We were Polish and he was German. Still, my dad would always stop by his house to see if he wanted to play baseball with us,” said David Lubanski.
“At my dad’s funeral, that same guy from the neighborhood said my dad’s kindness is what he remembered most; how he would always stop to pick him up to play baseball even with all the aggravation he caused.”
Inclusion was something else that earmarked any team Jerry Lubanski coached. It didn’t matter if you were the second coming of Derek Jeter or so jittery at the plate you couldn’t hit a 33 mph fastball. If you were on the team, you were on the team.
A lot of guys who are no longer kids will be on the team at Royal Oak High Saturday.
“It will be emotional, especially at first,” said David Lubanski. “But after that, we’ll just have fun and laugh and play baseball.”
Spoken like a true Lubanski.

Jim Evans is a sports writer for the Daily Tribune. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @jimevanssports


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