Paul Emerick was a baseball standout and basketball player at Bennett in the 1950’s. He was, arguably, one of the best right handed pitchers ever to represent the ngers in the long baseball history of Bennett High School. His superb fast ball and curve, as well as his outstanding control, enabled Bennett to capture the Cornell Cup during his junior year. The Tigers also won the Cornell Cup during his sophomore season. He was named to the All-High first team as a pitcher during his senior year at Bennett.
Paul enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from Bennett. While serving in “Special Services” in the Philippines, Paul was a star pitcher, as he competed against the top teams in the Far East. Upon discharge from the Air Force, he signed a professional baseball contract with the Kansas City Athletics organization. He was assigned to the Daytona Islanders of the Florida State League in 1963, and was slated to move to AAA Albuquerque the next year, when a serious rotator cuff surgery ended his pitching career.
Paul retired after a long career in the New York State Correctional System, and currently resides with his wife in North Tonawanda.
Paul starred for Bennett in the mid 50’s after transferring from St. Joe’s in 1955. Paul quickly assimilated into the Bennett mainstream as a student-athlete, finding his niche on the gridiron and baseball diamond. /ls a catcher in baseball, he played on Bennett’s undefeated Cornell Cup championship team of 1957. Paul was a strong armed right handed thrower, and a left handed hitter. Paul was a mainstay on that club. In 1958, his senior year, Paul hit .467, and was named the All High catcher on another winning Bennett baseball squad. Over the two year period of his junior and senior year, Paul failed to hit safely in only one game.
In football, Paul played on the offensive line for the Tigers, and doubled as a kicking specialist. In 1958 Paul represented Bennett in the All-Star football game at Civic Stadium. That game pitted the city all-stars against the county all-stars.
Following his high school career, Paul served in the U.S. Army and played ball for the VII Corps Jayhawks. Paul now resides in Cheektowaga, and is a retired U.S. Postal employee.
Al Berke’s basketball career at Bennett HS reached its apex in 1957-58 when he was named to the Buffalo All High first team at the conclusion of his senior season. In his junior year of 1956-57, Al was a key cog in Bennett’s march to the Yale Cup City Championship, which included a 10 game winning streak. During the entirety of his career at Bennett, Al’s superb rebounding skills, aided by his tenacity and willingness to persevere, complemented his sound execution of fundamental rebounding technique. In addition, Berke was a steady, consistent scorer, and he averaged close to 14 points per game during his stellar senior season. Perhaps the most memorable Bennett victory of his career came early in his junior year when two time defending Yale Cup champion Lafayette met an amped up Tiger squad on their home court. Bennett handed Lafayette a rare defeat on their home floor, 58-52. Berke was outstanding on that particular day. He made a key 3 pointer late in the victory, and contributed his usual dogged rebounding performance, leading to Lafayette’s demise.
Following his graduation from Bennett, he entered Buffalo St. College, where he played hoops and became a freshman starter. Berke then went on to join the United States Air Force from 1960-64. His passion for basketball still intact, he played on an Air Force team that captured a pair of championships during the 1962 and 1963 campaigns. One title team became the the Duluth, Minnesota Class AA City Championship team. That 1962 game was decided when Berke hit a key field goal in the waning seconds. The other title team was the Air Base Squadron Championship Squad. Players from various regions of the USA joined Berke to play over 50 games during this stint. Not to be denied, Al managed to be a first stringer on these extremely competitive squads.
Showing athletic versatility after basketball, Berke turned to bowling. In the 1990’s, he made cable television appearances for the Tops TV Challenge, managing to win 2 of those shows.
Berke, currently retired from a career in the automotive industry, lives in Clarence. He and his wife,Karen, have been married 46 years. They have a son, Mark, and a daughter, Lisa. Al and Karen have 7 grandchildren.