Curt Dressel, the late and beloved coach, touched a lot of lives in Springfield. That was evident by the long lines of people lining the streets for his funeral procession.
One great Springfield High athlete, Curt Blake, was named for Dressel.
Few athletes had their life touched in a more positive manner by Dressel than Bernard “Peanuts” Kasparovich, himself one of the greatest to put on the Cosmos uniform.
Kasparovich’s father died when he was very young and Dressel nurtured him, pointing him in the right directions.
His sister Helen, only five years older than Peanuts, raised him but Dressel was his connection to sports.
That was important because athletics became a big part of his life.
“Sports was his family,” said his daughter Kathy Bolaski.
He was a quarterback for the Cosmos in football and a deadly outside shooter in basketball. He also competed in track and field where he earned acclaim in the high jump. He played baseball.
“He loved it all,” Bolaski said.
It was in 1942 when he scored 37 points in the state championship basketball game, a total that was pretty much unheard of in that era.
“Most of the shots he took would have been 3-pointers today,” Bolaski said.
“I want to know where he got the name Peanuts?” sports columnist Bill Murphy asked on a show moderated by Springfield Athletic Director Rich Saypack to introduce Kasparovich and the eight other members who will comprise Springfield High’s newest Hall of Fame class.
His daughter believes she has the answer.
“He was small,” Bolaski said, pegging her father at 5-foot-6 or 5-foot-7. “He was very fast.”
“When he was quarterback, he would dart in and out of the holes. I think that is when people began calling him Peanuts.”
She believes it was either Dressel or some of the fans who first gave him the nickname.
The word “lightning” was frequently used to describe Kasparovich’s speed and quickness but Bolaski said he also had a good arm as a quarterback.
Starting from humble beginnings and growing up without a father, Kasparovich became a success story. He served in the military for three years and then graduated from St. Michael’s College where he played basketball for the Purple Knights.
Scouring scrapbooks from his days with the Cosmos and Purple Knights, Bolaski said she was able to draw the conclusion that her father was a team player in every sense.
He died in 2018 at the age of 95 but sports enriched his life well into his later years. He still followed the Cosmos and attended games when he could. He followed sports on television and took his grandchildren to the Elks Hoop Shoot.
He became part of the Springfield community after graduating from SMC, working at Bryant’s Machine Tool Company and playing semipro baseball for the Springfield Admirals in he late 1940s.
His later years found him convalescing at the Springfield Health & Rehab Center.
There he enjoyed interacting with another Springfield patient and legend, Ted Lindgren.
“That was touching,” Bolaski said of the way her father and Lindgren related.
Peanuts Kasparovich touched lives right up until the end. And when the ceremony is held to honor the latest Springfield High School HOF class, he will touch some more. His story is one that can’t help but inspire others.