First, the Massachusetts Babe Ruth Hall of Fame came calling for Jim Smerczynski a year ago. Now, the Peabody resident has been chosen for the New England Babe Ruth Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was held recently at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Marlborough, with “Smuz” one of only three people inducted.
The 76-year-old Smerczynski began his career in Peabody Babe Ruth back in 1973, and over the years became one of the most successful coaches around. His baseball teams won league, state and regional championships too numerous to count.
“It was a very nice honor,” said Smerczynski, who has spent almost 40 years volunteering to coach and administer youth sports. “It was very nice that Mark Matanes (the Massachusetts State Commissioner) made the presentation, because I’ve known him for years and he’s a great guy.”
Smerczynski was honored along with Norm Messier, the current New England commissioner who hails from Vermont, as well as a gentleman from Connecticut. All three were given huge plaques to commemorate the event.
Smerczynski, who didn’t find out about the honor until two days prior to the event, made sure to thank his wife, Barbara, a terrific athlete in her own right.
“Years ago, when our sons Mike or Tom (both of whom were outstanding pitchers) needed to throw, she’d put on a catcher’s mitt. The boys threw in the 90s and Mike was too wild for me, but she would catch for him,” Smerczynski said.
During the event, Matanes spoke about the time back in the 1970s when an African-American family moved to West Peabody and one of their sons signed up for Babe Ruth. The only coach interested in drafting him was Smerczynski, who welcomed young Artie Collins to his Rotary team — the most successful in the city. At the time, there were 12 Babe Ruth teams for players ages 13 to 15 in the city, with six in West Peabody and six more downtown. Things were highly competitive, with around 120 boys trying out for 48 spots.