Go on, why not sponsor this page for $5.00 and have your own message appear in this space.
Click here for details
Date and Place of Birth: May 13, 1921 Chicago, Illinois
Died: November 5, 2012 Skokie, Illinois
Military Unit: 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations
Steve Sakas dreamed of being a big league pitcher. When he hurt his arm he lived his dreams through the hundreds of youngsters he taught to pitch.
P. “Steve” Sakas was born in
Despite interest from the Chicago White Sox, Sakas went to Western
"I was 13 that summer," recalls Bill Cope, who was a young
The West Texas-New Mexico League was a notorious hitters’ paradise at the time and Sakas’ 9-18 won-loss record and 4.25 ERA looks a lot worse that it was. In 1942, he moved up to the Superior Blues of the Class C Northern League where he was 9-12 with a 3.96 ERA.
Steve Sakas (right) with the Lubbock Hubbers in 1941. On the left is the Hubbers' first baseman Kauzlerich.
forced to put his career on hold when he entered military service at
the end of the 1942 season. He was inducted at
Steve Sakas (right) with Herm Reich at
As the war progressed, every able-bodied man was needed for overseas service and Sakas quickly found himself in the infantry. “We had a warrant officer who tried out for the baseball team,” says Sakas. “He didn’t make the grade and I cut him from the team, but he really got me back when he sent me to the Army. That was the dumbest cut I ever made!”
Sakas was soon on his way to
Sakas was with the 30th Division as they crossed the Rhine, then the
Ruhr, and captured
Following the German surrender, Sakas got back to doing what he did best, organizing sports and recreation for the troops, which included a softball team. One day, Colonel Stewart asked Sakas if he could put together a baseball team. Another division had a hot team that included Billy Johnson of the Yankees and were looking for games. Sakas told the Colonel he didn’t have any baseball players but he’d do his best. He held tryouts among his softball players and selected the best, including the company cook, who became the team’s catcher and always ensured Sakas had the best steak whenever he wanted.
The next step was to find somewhere to play. Sakas requisitioned a large mansion house and grounds in the German town of Schleiz, assuring the family that his players would take great care of everything. He then set about finding uniforms and approached a German dress factory which just happened to be owned by the family who owned the house his baseball team had taken over. While the factory started making uniforms, Sakas approached a cobbler, who made baseball spikes following the ball player’s careful instruction. “They looked great but they must have been the heaviest spikes in the world!” recalls Sakas.
Sakas was getting a dozen baseballs sent every month by Bill DeWitt, owner of the St. Louis Browns, but balls were always in short supply, and some German women even tried making these – the experiment was a disaster and ended very quickly.
Dressed and ready to go, Sakas’ ball team christened their home
ground Colonel Stewart Field and played a number of games including
a heartbreaking, 1 to 0, loss to Sam Nahem’s All-Stars who went on
to be the European Theater champions. Nahem asked Sakas to come and
play for his team in
He was back home by November 1945. “I went to spring training with
the Milwaukee Brewers in 1946,” recalls Sakas. “They felt I wasn’t
ready and sent me to
only spent a short time with
Sakas worked with his father in the family tavern business and
bought his own place on
The Texarkana pitching staff in 1947. Sakas is second from left
But Sakas wasn’t through with baseball. He continued to pitch, when his arm would allow, and hurled for the semi-pro Michigan City Cubs of the Michigan-Indiana League in 1949. He also scouted for the White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. In 1951, he formed the AHEPA All-Stars, a collection of Greek-American ballplayers. The team had great success in semi-pro leagues. Sakas was also player-manager for the semi-pro Skokie Indians in the late 1950s and 1960s.
During the 1970s, Sakas was a pitching coach with high school and
college kids. He served as the pitching coach for the Lincolnwood
Big League All-Stars youth team which won the World Championship in
During the 1980s he coached the pitching staff of the semi-pro Maryville Shamrocks and the Barnstormers, who won the AABC Illinois state title two years in a row.
In the late
1980s he served as pitching coach for
And what about that shoulder injury he suffered back in 1948? Well, Sakas suffered a heart attack in 1998. Talking with his doctor one day, he mentioned how he used to play pro ball and hurt his shoulder. The doctor offered to take a look at his shoulder with an MRI scan and discovered that he’d torn his rotator cuff. “At 78, is it too late to make a comeback?” Sakas wondered.
Steve Sakas lived in
This tribute to Steve aired on WGN TV Chicago in 2013
Thanks to the late Steve Sakas who shared this information with me during a telephone conversation in February 2008. Thanks, also, to his sons, Jim and Peter, for helping with additional information and photos.
April 2, 2008. Updated April 2, 2013
Updated April 2, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.