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Eugene Palka

Baseball ∙ Beaver Falls

 

 

 

 

Born August 20, 1935, Eugene Louis Palka spent his childhood on the baseball diamond, drawing high praise on his Beaver Falls High School and American Legion teams that won several section, county, and regional titles, and garnered Gene numerous individual honors. How good was he? The Baltimore Orioles signed him to a contract right out of high school. Gene played three years in Canada, the Appalachian League, and in Texas with the Orioles chain over the next three seasons, but when juvenile diabetes prevented him from continuing his major league dreams, Gene returned to Beaver Falls and got into coaching. After several years with Little League and All Star squads, Gene took over the reigns of the American Legion program in 1969, and in five years guided the Tommies (with players that included Rick Mancini and Mike DeChellis) to the playoffs each year, including four county championships, four district titles, and three state playoffs. During this time, Gene also scouted and conducted tryout camps for the Pirates. In 1972 Gene was told that his worsening health condition gave him only two years left to live, but he made it through the 1974 season, when his Tommies made the state championship game – further than any other Tommies team had gone in its 58 year history. Gene died on September 28, 1974 at age 39, and his sons Colonel Gene and Michael began a Beaver Falls baseball scholarship in their father’s name that is now in its 32nd year.