Commonwealth Athletic Director
Through the tense years of the Depression and World War II, the recreation program at the Commonwealth roseand fell with every change of athletic director. Early in wartime it had reached an all-time low. When he returned in 1952 to dedicate a new Starr Field, former coach Jerome (“Jerry”)Sacharski described what he had seen from the president’s office when he contemplated his first assignment on June 25, 1942.
“I saw a vast expanse of barren field,” he recalled, “covered one-third with cinders. The other two-thirds of the area down toward the lake was filled with unmoved field grass. I went down for a closer look. Inno time seventy-five to a hundred boys were upon me and I was knee-deep in youngsters.”
“I soon discovered that everything needed to be done, so in a few days I gathered all of the 14-15-16 year oldboys I could find and we went to work. Our first project was to carve out a softball field in one area; then in another corner we drove some neglected two inch pipes into the cinder base, stretched a net of sorts between them, lined the boundaries and had ourselves avolleyball court.”
With equal industry Coach Sacharski and his crew even built a tennis court. “We called it a grass court,” Jerry continued, “though there were more open patches of dirt than there was grass. Our net posts were four by fours with a rope stretched across at regulation height to serve as a net. So that we could detect whether the ball went over or under the rope, we tied a bunch of streamers to the rope. It was all pretty rude, but the boys loved their rec field.”
With the arrival of autumn, footballs soon filled the air. “I remember when they cost$2.00 apiece,” Sacharski said, “but Mrs. Erwin Mason would always dip into her purse when we needed another. Again we had to prepare our own field just east of the cinder area, and that really took work.First we had to mow the hayfield. Then we dug deep holes and put up goal posts – of a sort. Even after we lined the field and borrowed a bench it wasn’t the most imposing football field in the world, but we played some great games on that stubble.”
Sacharski undertook his assignment in full expectation that he would have to devise a unique sports program to conform to the demands of a private school forproblem youth. Somewhat to his chagrin, his schedule of activities turned out to be highly conventional. As described in the Fall 1949 issue of the Starr Commonwealth News, “the athletic program at Starr Commonwealth consistsof interscholastic competition, intramural activities, free and organized playground periods, and physical education.” Quite by design, contests between Starr teams and those from area schools were not depicted as major events on the sports calendar. Indeed, one contemporary article explained, “A won and lost record in varsitycompetition is not considered in the number of games won and lost, but rather in the number of boys who have gained or not gained some character building traits from their association and participation in various sports.” Like every coach before and since, Sacharski admits that in some seasons “we built a lot of character.”
Source: Keith Fennimore. Faith Made Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan: Starr Commonwealth. 1988.
T-ball baseball as an organized sport was invented in Albion, Michigan by coach Jerry Sacharski under the name of Pee Wee Baseball in the summer of 1956. It was designed so boys 6, 7, and 8 years old could safely learn the fundamentals of the game, complete with a specially designed baseball diamond. Coach Sacharski instructs 6-year-old Craig LeClair about hitting the ball on the tee in this 1958 photograph. The base reads, “Pee Wee Tee.” (Photo courtesy Jerry Sacharski).