Eight Year Major League Shortstop
“If you’re good enough, they will come to you,” such was the philosophy of North Tonawanda’s own Stan Rojek, who made it to the major leagues as a shortstop with his talent, drive and tenacity.
He was good enough, so good that even without a baseball program in place at North Tonawanda High he drew the attention of scouts and was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939. He made his major league debut in 1942, but his career would be put on hold when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
Rojek served his military duty as an instructor of aerial gunnery with the 73rd Bomb Wing Bombers of the 20th Air Force tour in the Pacific theater, where he perfected his skills as an all-round player. While the war years might have hindered some players’ careers, Rojek believed playing 200 games against seasoned major league stars made him a better player.
In 1946 he returned to the Dodgers and the next season he became Western New York’s link to sporting history when he teamed with Jackie Robinson. A year later, he contributed greatly to the Dodgers pennant drive. Over a 12 game period, he went 14 for 41 for an average of .341.
A trade to the Pirates prior to the 1948 season allowed Rojek to emerge from the shadow of the Dodgers Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese. In his first full season of duty, he played nearly flawless baseball appearing in every inning of all 156 games. He led the league with 150 singles, while batting .290 and finished 10th in league MVP balloting. Disaster struck a year later when he suffered a beaning, high on the jaw bone, in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was never the same player because of the effects of this injury.
Rojek’s stats slipped slightly the next year, and then he suffered a broken bone and played only 76 games in 1950. After a trade to the Cardinals in 1951, Rojek played only 59 games and batted .267 with 10 extra base hits. By ’52, he was out of the majors. He returned to North Tonawanda and opened Rojek’s Park Manor Lanes.