Ted Palac, Olympic Boxing Coach
Ted Palac has been boxing all his life. He was born in Poland on the eve of World War II and lived there until 1966 when he fled the country's communist regime and spent two years living in Sweden. He moved to Hamtramck in 1968. Ted was a boxer on the Polish national team and today he is an accomplished coach whose boxers, including his sons, have represented the United States at several Olympic games. Ted also runs his own boxing gym in Hamtramck where he coaches boxers ages 8 to 45. He also runs the Polish National Alliance (PNA) Hall on Conant.
Ted: My name is Ted Palac. I born in Poland and I live so many years in Poland and during communist country, you know, we have lots, lots of pressure from Russia and in 1966, I have a match between Poland-- South Poland and South Sweden, because I boxing in Polish National Team. I— we go to Sweden and never come back. I stay Sweden 2 years. 1968 I move to United States, I live Hamtramck. Since 1968, I move Hamtramck. I boxing in Hamtramck and last year recreation and after so many years after I marriage a Polish woman what I know her from Poland you know from south of Poland. We married, we have three kids. My kids grow up, I start working like their coach, you know, and then I have two son and one daughter. I start coaching to my son since he-- one son was six years old, other one was eight years old. I coaching him and I develop program for him and both was olympic team USA Colorado Springs you know. They was-- one was for 1996 Olympic trial, other one was for 2000 Sydney Australia. I working with USA team so many years, I still working, I still have gym in Hamtramck. I traveling with USA team 26 time different country with USA team, women and men. I been in six times head coach for women and men. China two times, Azerbaijan, Moscow, Russia I been five times. I been South America, Argentina, Canada, many country, you know. Mostly in European country and mostly you know I try to do best for USA team always if I come with USA team always I bring in a medal. I am a level four higher level four USA coach. Also I am AIBA star three this is higher coach in AIBA boxing. I certification, recertification my level star three last year March, Assisi, Italy. I have to pay from my own pocket [laughs] or program. I boxing, I with boxing I am in since I was 14 years old in Poland, and I boxing in Sweden, I boxing United States. I coaching kids since 1971, 71, yeah.
I boxing in Poland if I was 16 years old, I boxing in junior I boxing in, if I grow up, men’s senior in I Polish. I used to play soccer but I changed sport to boxing. I love boxing. I still love boxing. I still have open my gym. I still coaching kids. Boxing Poland was very popular sport, yeah. Right now, it’s soccer, a long time ago they boxing.
I have good coach in Poland you know, very good experience, he used to be in Polish National Team coach. Very tough guy, believe me, very tough guy, very old style man, you know. I have discipline, you know, and I learn boxing. Anything if you discipline— I’m sorry— if you discipline, you have any place if you discipline a job you go very high, yeah. We have like a state champion, we have region champion. You go to national like my son, two son was Olympian, they win everything and they hook him up with USA team. They have scholarship, they pay him, you know they traveling with USA team to other country. You have to be great.
I am traveling with USA team lots of country, yeah. I see lots of country. Lots of nice women, too. [Laughs]
Ike Blessitt, Detroit Tigers Outfielder
Ike Blessitt was born in 1949 and got his start playing for the Hamtramck Tigers as a kid. He became a four-sport Hamtramck sports legend in high school before signing a pro-contract with the Detroit Tigers at 16. Ike is now a private baseball instructor and hopes to restore Hamtramck's historic Negro League Field for local teams to use. First he discusses his memories of playing in Hamtramck, his experiences of racial discrimination in professional baseball, his career trajectory and his feelings about the city's historic field.
Ike: Hi my name is Ike Blessitt. I’m originally from Hamtramck. Moved into Hamtramck in the forties, and then we moved out and then come back to Hamtramck. And then I left out of Hamtramck in 68, after I signed with Detroit Tigers. Then I moved to Detroit.
Interviewer: So your parents moved here in the forties?
Ike: Yeah, thirties, they was here all their lives. Then they had me I was born in 49, so that’s when I came into the Hamtramck world. First I was down on the south end, and they came through there and built more factories and stuff like that so we had to move there. And then we moved on Yemans Street, right here between Buffalo and Conant. Oh yeah a bunch of people lived in there, in the area, who were sports minded. And we had Buffalo Field at the time, where we always go play baseball out there, football. You know it was like a nice little community when we played there. Everybody sports minded here in Hamtramck at the time.
Interviewer: Do you feel like you experienced any discrimination in your baseball career?
Ike: A lot, a lot. Like we played in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and I had— I ran into a lot of prejudiced white people in the south. I mean, it’s scary. We couldn’t stay in the same hotel with the white ball players. Like in Winter Ball down in Dundee, Florida, we had to stay with a black family and there were seven of us and each one of us had to pay this family $140 a month. When the white ball players stayed on the beach, two or three of them together, paying $100 a month, they on the beach. We couldn’t go on the beach. And the hotel, The Jamaica Inn, they didn’t want black to be in the hotel but they had to put up with it because we’re Detroit Tigers, we’re major league ball players. And once you’re a major league ball player, you’re so called— I hate to put it in this fashion, but this is the way it was back then— we some good niggers. Because we’re professional niggers. See what I’m saying? I hate to use that work but to make you understand what we went through I have to use it.
Ike: Yeah I started baseball and I played for the Hamtramck Tigers and won the championship in 1962, for the Hamtramck Tigers. And my dad was taking me to see and I heard about Jake Woods, that was the first black American to play on the Tiger team. And I told my dad, one day I’m going to play behind Jake Woods. And ten years later I played with 1972 pennant winning Tigers. Ten years later. It was a thrill to play for the Detroit Tigers.