Pafko grew up in Boyceville, Wisconsin. The small village did not have a baseball team. Pafko was signed as a 19-year-old by the Class D baseball team in nearby Eau Claire. Pafko learned about the interest from team manager Ivy Griffin while working on his father’s farm. “I still remember the day he pulled into the driveway at the farm in that nice new car,” Pafko said. “It took me about five minutes to get off the threshing machine and change my clothes. I was gone.” In 1941, Pafko played on the Green Bay Blue Sox team in the Wisconsin State League. He had 12 home runs, 66 RBIs, while batting .349 on the team that won the league championship. He played another season in the minor league before debuting in the major league in 1943 with the Chicago Cubs.
Nicknamed “Handy Andy”, Pafko was a popular player well known for good hitting and fielding, and contributed to championship-caliber teams in three different cities. A five-time All-Star, he played with the Chicago Cubs during their most recent World Series appearance, in 1945. After Cubs third baseman Stan Hack retired the following year, Pafko replaced him on the hot corner long enough to be named an All-Star there, making him one of the few players to achieve All-Star status in both the infield and outfield. He was traded to Brooklyn in June 1951 during the middle of the season. Pafko returned home when he was traded to the Boston Braves before the start of the 1953 season, becoming the only Wisconsin native on the Braves roster when they arrived in Milwaukee and participating in their strong contending teams there, including the 1957 World Series champions. Pafko started in the first game at Milwaukee County Stadium on April 3, 1953. A devout Slovak Lutheran, he was an instant favorite with Milwaukee’s large Eastern European community. In the mid 1950s, the Milwaukee area Lutherans had a “Andy Pafko Night” and gave him a new car.
After his playing days, Pafko managed in the minor leagues, including a two-year stint as the skipper for the Kinston Eagles in the Carolina League. Pafko also scouted for the Montreal Royals in the late 1960s. He was also active in the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association. He eventually settled in the Chicago area, and always provided good copy for the press, especially when the subject of the Cubs would come up. When they won their division in 1984, Pafko mused, “I never dreamed it would take them 39 years to win again. I thought they would have won by accident before then!” Pafko was named to the Cubs All-Century team at the turn of the 21st century. As of July 2013, Pafko and Lennie Merullo were the last two men living who played for the Cubs in a World Series.
The book Carl Erskine’s Tales from the Dodgers Dugout: Extra Innings (2004) includes short stories from former Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine. Pafko is prominent in many of these stories. He is also the title character in Pafko at the Wall and The Perfect Pafko. He also plays a role in Roger Kahn’s American classic, “The Boys of Summer.” He died at a nursing home in Stevensville, Michigan on October 8, 2013. He was 92.
- February, 25, 1921
- Boyceville, Wisconsin
- October, 08, 2013
- Stevensville, Michigan
- Saint Luke Cemetery
- Chicago, Illinois