by Todd Peterson
March 12, 2012
Adamczak Was ‘The King’ On Softball Mound
He was "The King."
No one, and we mean no one, could top him and when he walked on any area softball mound and picked up the ball. Opposing batters swallowed a bit harder and gripped a bat just a little more tightly.
His name was Jim Adamczak and he truly lived up to his nickname. He seemed to be indestructible, but sadly, death claimed him Wednesday at the age of 74 and it was a loss felt by everyone who knew him.
Adamczak was the picture of total domination and we can't think of anyone that was more intimidating with a softball in his hand.
From 1958 to 1975, Adamczak literally like a force of nature. Consider these statistics: For a 10-year-span, he averaged more than 17 strikeouts a game
He averaged 35 wins a year while throwing more than 25 no-hitters, covering 1,200 games
In 1962, Adamczak won six games in a single day to win the Most Valuable Player award at a tournament in Warren.
He once had 47 strikeouts in two consecutive days in beating Chautauqua Hardware with 25 and Green Brothers Lumber with 22.
He threw four perfect games and his pitch speed averaged around 100 miles per hour.
He also was a career .350 hitter, something that was overshadowed at times by his prowess on the mound.
Need we say more?
During the early 1970s, Adamczak pitched for Stravato's Grill while another fine pitcher of that time, Ron Frederes, hurled for the See-Zurh House and whenever they faced off, up to 1,000 spectators would often surround Danielson Stadium to watch two of the best battle it out and that continued when the teams squared off at the Jones & Gifford fields.
In 1975, he led the Jamestown All-Stars to a 1-0 win over another softball legend, Eddie Feigner, who pitched for the world-famous "King & His Court," stopping the team's long winning streak by striking out 17. Feigner struck out a mere 15 batters in the loss.
He appeared to be indestructible, but a back injury finally ended his long career in 1975 and after years of waiting, he was finally inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Many felt he should have been elected far sooner, but he truly seemed to enjoy the night of his induction and was truly honored to be held in such high esteem.
There's no question Adamczak made an impact on the lives of those who knew and played with and against him.
Bob Schmitt, who was just inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in February, remembered one of his early encounters with "The King."
"I was a rookie and facing him for maybe the second time," said Schmitt, "and the game was tied late. I hit a ball in the right-center gap at Danielson. Rounding first, I knew I had a good chance for an inside-the-parker. As I neared second, I stumbled and missed second and fell on my face. I went back and stood on second, pretty upset. The King came over and stood on top of me as I was sitting on the bag cleaning myself off. He looked and me and said, "You alright, kid?" I could have punched him!"
Schmitt also recalled his days playing in big-money events with Adamczak.
"I played with Stravato's a couple of times in them,'' he said. ''I didn't like them, but I really wanted to play. I batted first and the King batted last. When the eighth batter was hitting, I had to be in the on- deck circle. When the King was up, I had to hand him his bat and take his famous towel that he wore around his neck. He made me feel like the batboy!"
Schmitt also noted, "He was a geat hitter, too, but nobody ever talked about that.'' Ken Martin, who played for See Zurh House, remembered Adamczak fondly.
"I hated to face him," Martin said with a laugh. "He was a gentleman and I liked him very well. He was a great guy, a real competitor. Our teams had a great rivalry."
Legendary assistant football coach at Jamestown High School, Joe DiMaio, also had a few memories of Adamczak. DiMaio also played for the See Zurh House team.
"When he first broke in, just before I started playing, my dad was nearing the end of his playing days,'' he said. ''He'd caught a lot of the great pitchers thought the years and he ended up as the guy who broke Jim in. He threw very hard, but he was so wild. He was all over the place. My dad kind of got him into to being a pitcher instead of just a thrower."
DiMaio says he'll never forget the pitches Adamczak threw during his career.
"He had one of the most fantastic risers you'll ever see," he said. "We knew if it started out around your waste, you had a chance to hit it, but it got on you so quick, you usually missed it. He also had drop pitches that were almost unhittable."
Adamczak's aggressiveness as a pitcher didn't always endear himself to those he faced, but DiMaio recognized something else beyond that.
"Yeah, he was quite a competitor, but no matter what, he was always very well respected, especially when we played against each other," said DiMaio. "In fact, once we stopped being so competitive, we became good friends. Our rivalry (Stravato's-See Zurh House) was almost like the Yankees and the Red Sox. He was one of the few guys I saw that was actually good enough to be paid.
"He was the best I've seen around here."
Words that are so true and it's fair to say we won't see the likes of Adamczak again.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.