By Bob Cudmore/For The Leader-Herald
“Will it be a Highland Fling or an Hawaiian Hula that is danced tonight,” wondered Recorder sportswriter Bob Wischmeyer.
Amsterdam’s attention that August was focused on competition for the city men’s softball league title between the Hawaiian Klub on Church Street on Reid Hill and Burza’s Highland House on upper Locust Avenue.
Nationally in 1961, Roger Maris hit 61 home runs. Mickey Mantle was the highest-paid baseball player, making $75,000 that season. The Yankees went on to win the World Series.
Sports teams based at the Hawaiian Klub had been covered on local sports pages since 1950. Earlier in 1961, athletic Stanley Burza and his wife Irene purchased the Highland House on upper Locust Avenue.
The Hawaiian Klub won the first game 2-1. The Highlanders took the second contest 6-1. The games took place at one of the fields behind what was then Lynch High School on Brandt Place.
The deciding game was 6 p.m. sharp on a Monday.
Wischmeyer wrote, “Defense told the story last night. Burza’s Highland House played without an error and turned in two double plays to defeat the Hawaiian Klub 5-1.”
Burza played third base, was team manager and part of one of the double plays. He played softball for 50 years. State Assemblyman Donald Campbell was on the Highlander team along with other Amsterdam notables such as Bud Heck and Fred Sandy.
Among those on the Klub roster were Gene Bik, Fred Cerasaro, Chuck Pettengill and Dave Quick.
Stan Burza and Irene Drozd met at Mohawk Carpet Mills where they both worked. Stan also inflated footballs at Collette Manufacturing on Clizbe Avenue and drove a truck for Iroquois Chemical on Edward Street.
During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific including the liberation of the Philippine Islands.
Stan tended bar at the Highland House. He made a ritual of saying good night to you by name when you left the tavern, with a friendly but cautionary formula that went something like this, “Good night, Bob. Don’t slip on the ice. Don’t step on Irene’s tulips.”
Irene recalled in a 1986 newspaper article that she once asked a young man to take his feet off the furniture in the tavern. When he replied she sounded like his mother, her response was, “When you’re here, I am your mother.”
Reader Ron Johnson recalled that if you asked Stan for a match, his response was, “I have matches to burn.” Johnson said Irene brought out plates of kielbasa after midnight on Friday nights since Catholics could not eat meat on Fridays.
The tavern had a Wall of Honor where clippings were posted when patrons rolled a 300 game in bowling, got a hole in one in golf or did something outstanding in scholastics or community life. The clippings have been donated to the Walter Elwood Museum.
The Burzas closed the tavern in 1986. Irene died in 1990. Six years later Stan married Rita Loughrey, a woman he had met through one of his two daughters.
Rita said Stan enjoyed being useful. He took up skiing in his seventies and went with Rita on a ski trip to France for their honeymoon.
A frequent golf partner in later years was Charles Brown of Hagaman. Brown came to the area in 1965 and started going to Burza’s. Brown was a faithful visitor when Stan spent his last days at River Ridge Living Center.
Stan died Nov. 2, 2010 at 92. He was buried with military honors at St. Stanislaus Cemetery. He was a member of the Good Shepherd Polish National Church.