Trencherman John

added 2/22/2010 by Cot Deal

There was a young man from Detroit
Who at baseball was quite adroit,
But few there are able
To compete at the table,
And to have it called an exploit.

Baseball had no free agent draft in 1962. Signing players was by what was called open scouting, and competition was keen.

Scouting reports on John Paciorek were loaded with superlatives. He could "do it all" as the workhorse phrase was used. I was coaching for the Houston Colt 45s at the time. Paul Richards was our General Manager. Paul wanted very much to sign this young phenomenon, and had the approval of owners R.E. "Bob" Smith and Roy Hofheinz to battle all challengers. The signing bonus, although certain to be a large one, was not a major factor. John was from a closely knit Roman Catholic family who had made it clear that if he did sign, they must be convinced that he would be going with men of integrity who would truly have John's best interests. A selling job must be done.

Rudy Laskowski, our scout in the Detroit area, had done an excellent job. He had reported these considerations, plus other helpful information like his being an outstanding basketball player and one of the nation's most sought after fullbacks. As a person, he was pictured as quiet, mild-mannered, somewhat introverted, and with an unbelievable capacity to feed a Bunyan-like appetite. After consistent wooing of the family, Laskowski was able to bring John and his father to Chicago where we were playing the Cubs in a weekend series. He had a suite waiting for them at our hotel.

Harry Craft, our manager, had met with us coaches and told us all about it. John would work out with us before each game with, of course, our giving him special attention. Giving special attention to John Paciorek would have occurred without plan. This 6`2", 210-pounder was indeed an eye catcher, with players and coaches from both clubs joining the admiring eyes from all over Wrigley Field - from Harry Craft to the peanut venders - as this captivating youngster put on quite a show.

He fielded balls in the infield and the outfield with equal ease. He stepped into the batting cage with the poise of a veteran, slugging one ball after another. One could envision his being an outstanding big leaguer in the not too distant future. At the end of the pre-game drills, he showered and watched the game with his father and Laskowski in the Colt 45s' VIP box seats.

Bill Giles doubled as public relations director and traveling secretary. He and Richards had a shrewd plan, designed as a strategic courtship. They made reservations at Gibby's, one of Chicago's finest steak houses. Richards and Craft were tied up with potential trades, but we coaches went with Giles, Laskowski and the Pacioreks. Since having heard of John's appetite and capacity, I was determined to keep a mental box score. I'm putting this on paper to share with you, but as long as I have my mental faculties, the bite-by-bite account will be indelible in my memory.

As we ordered drinks, John ordered a lemonade - "a large one, please". There was a relish tray on the table, loaded with breadsticks, but not for long and the waiter brought another as we chatted and decided what to order. The waiter suggested that, although all the appetizers were excellent, it was the peak of the fruit season and that the assorted fresh fruits were outstanding. That sounded good to John so Giles told the waiter to bring John a fruit bowl. And large it was; it looked like a mixing bowl. John had another large lemonade.

Gibby's featured a boneless sixteen-ounce sirloin strip, but also listed a twenty-four ouncer for two. When each of us had decided, Giles called the waiter over and with a flourish told him to bring John the twenty-four ouncer, a baked potato, and not just a dinner salad, but also a chef's salad bowl. When the salad came, we exchanged glances, and grins. It was the kind any of us would have for lunch. I admit I don't have a precise count of breadsticks, relish tray goodies or dinner rolls, but they were vanishing like peanuts. I marveled at the hasty departure of that huge salad.

As the waiter served the steaks, he apologized for the chef's having sent out all sixteen-ouncers, but served John one and told him he would bring another. John probably computed the eight ounce advantage as he smiled and asked for a glass of milk, "a large one, please". I wasn't sure whether he enjoyed the fruit or salad more, but the steak was obviously the winner as I watched him relish each bite. At the finish of that steak, the waiter brought him another, and another baked potato.

Furtive chuckles were impossible to suppress. It seemed hardly any time when, as the thirty-two ounces were gone, John shifted his weight, finished a second glass of milk, and settled back for the rest of us to finish.

"Enjoy that?" asked Giles.

"Yes, sir."

"Would you like another?"

John's grin, with the wholesome appeal of youthful blush, was barely perceptible. Although he was embarrassed, it wasn't forceful enough to squelch the desire for another luscious sirloin.

"I believe I would."

A mere glance summoned the eager waiter. Giles capitalized on the drama.

"Bring the big one. I'd like to see what it looks like, anyway."

John blushed again, but didn't protest. We continued our dinner as John sipped on his milk. It wasn't a long wait - as though they had started cooking the big one in anticipation. With the huge chunk of meat came another baked potato. John was not just putting on a show, he was so sincerely savoring each bite one could but watch with awe.

John Paciorek didn't go on to become a big leaguer. Yes, he signed with Houston, but an unfortunate back injury forced him out of baseball before he had a chance to develop. There are many stories about his eating and I'm sure many of them magnified, but this one is accurate. His thirty-two inch waistline must truly have an elasticity seldom seen or heard of.

Did he finish the third steak and the third baked potato? He did - all fifty-six ounces - and finished it off with half a cantaloupe filled with ice cream.

Cot Deal coached the Colt .45s from 1962-1964 and coached the Astros from 1983-1985. He also managed Houston farm teams in Oklahoma City during 1968 and 1969 as part of a career in baseball that spanned five decades, including as a major league player with the Cardinals and Red Sox.

The above stories are used by permission from the book Cot In The Act (c) 1992 by Cot Deal. All rights reserved.