Every other Thursday morning, a unique social group gathers for breakfast at the Glenville Queen Diner. For two hours these locals indulge in omelets, pancakes, coffee, and their deep-rooted, common interest: baseball. Many have played the game, some professionally. All are residents of the Capital District with an abiding interest in America’s pastime.
In this age of the Internet and cable TV, the Schenectady Ole Time Baseball Club prefers old fashioned face-to-face conversation. Members renew and nurture friendships built over the years through their baseball connections. They share old stories, but more, they seek to support baseball and the communities in which they live.
These year-round breakfast meetings include trivia contests (a high sports I.Q. very helpful), welcomes to new members, sports news updates, and talks from sports personalities.
Don Blaha, president of the club, exudes athleticism, even past his playing days, as do many of the club’s members. Don’s talents as a pitcher brought him to the semi-pro level. He played in the Schenectady Twilight League and once notched a perfect game in the New York State semi-pro baseball tournament. He also authored two other no-hitters during his career.
Don was a local track star at Mont Pleasant High School, specializing in the high jump. In basketball, he played on NYU basketball teams that reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament in 1962 and 1963. He coached basketball at Bishop Gibbons High School in two stretches, retiring in 1988.
Recounting his sports achievements, Don is quick to point out the many accomplishments of other members of the Ole Time Club–in baseball and other sports. “Our members are across-the-board sportsmen. We’re honored to have their wives as part of the organization, and anyone who shares our love of baseball and sports.” Don points out that a founder of the club, Eddie Hamil, was a catcher for the Schenectady Blue Jays, once a farm team of the Philadelphia Phillies. Eddie’s granddaughter, Shelle, continues the family tradition as a member of the club. Ken Johnson and Bob Durbak were also founding members. Three former major leaguers, Billy Connors, Ed Barnowski, and Don Pepper, are members.
Beyond social interaction (and group outings to Valley Cats and Amsterdam Mohawk games) the club takes an active involvement in the community, supporting youth baseball, Little League, Babe Ruth, and high school programs. Moreover, they provide help to Schenectady’s City Mission, the Salvation Army, regional food banks, Toys for Tots, and Winter Coat Drives. “We’re very proud of what we’ve done in these areas,” says Blaha.
He continues, “We want to sustain this club forever. Schenectady has a rich baseball and sports history, from the Blue Jays to the Little League championship teams of the 1950s to today. Baseball and sports have been a part of our lives in such a positive way. We want to share that experience wherever and whenever possible.”
(For more information on the club, readers may contact the author of this article, who is also a club member, below.)
Dave Balog teaches financial essentials on debt management, insurance, and investments to Capital Region businesses and families. firstname.lastname@example.org. 952-1257.