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Baseball History as American History: Lost Stories of Influential Ballplayers

Kiersten McMahon, Austin Hawkins, Gabe Foltz, Hannah Young, Tyler Storm, Miranda Nelson, Authors
Joe Grigas, page 1 of 5
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Early Life

Joe's grandparents were both born and raised in Lithuania. You could say the odds were stacked against Joe from the start, as Joe Zapustas was the only Lithuanian man to ever play baseball professionally. His father was also raised in Lithuania, but things began to change at the turn of the century. At this time the 1st Russian Revolution was in full swing and it transformed the thoughts and feelings of the Lithuanian people. From 1899-1914 over 200,000 Lithuanians came to America.

His family settled in the South Side of Chicago. Lithuanians had been settling in Chicago 20 years before the Russian Revolution. Large amounts of Lithuanians began settling in South Chicago as early as 1880.  Growing up, Joe's family raised him to be a devoted Catholic, identifying as part of Our Lady of Peace Parish. He grew up playing Penner (Chicago's version of the Bronx's stickball played in the streets), handball, and went power line fishing with the neighborhood kids. The rest of the family was settled in Massachusetts, including his Uncle Johnny who lived in Brockton, Massachusetts.

Joe attended Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago and played baseball his freshman and sophomore years. He was an average athlete, due to the fact he had not yet grown or matured into his body. Things changed quickly when in the Spring of his sophomore year, his father was laid off as a patronage worker in Chicago.
Joe was very involved in the band and baseball at that time, and Mt. Carmel was making budget cuts to both programs because at the time neither was a revenue producer for the school, despite the fact that the band director was extremely successful, taking a job at DePaul University shortly thereafter, and baseball had a winning record while he was there.

Nevertheless, the family needed a source of income being his mother was a stay at home mom. His father began exploring his options. They did not have to job search for long. Joe's Uncle Johnny got his father a similar job in Brockton, Massachusetts. So Joe opted to go somewhere that he could participate in band and baseball, and they would both be made a priority by the school. Joe made the move from the South Side to the East Coast.

How many people do you know that have diplomas from two high schools? I only know one. Joe graduated from Bishop Coyle High School in Taunton, Massachusetts AND received an honorary diploma from Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago. He enrolled at Bishop Coyle and completed his junior and senior years in Massachusetts, being very successful at Bishop Coyle. He was inducted into the Warrior Athletic Hall of Fame for his outstanding performances in high school. 

Why receive two diplomas? All of his siblings had received diplomas from Mt. Carmel, and he left Chicago more so because of his father's job change. It was important to him to receive a diploma from Mt. Carmel, because it was in the family, and he wanted to keep that tradition going.
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