John Zeitler

John Zeitler

Class of 1950

Year Inducted: 2003

John Zeitler was one of Bennett’s outstanding athletes. He lettered for four years in baseball and three in basketball and football. He made All-High in football and baseball his senior year and was second-team All-High in basketball. In football his senior year, he led all city scorers with six touchdowns. In baseball he pitched all of Bennett’s games, recording five wins and one loss. He beat Riverside, 3-2, in the Cornell Cup championship game. The previous baseball season, 1 949, he was named second team All-High as an infielder when he batted .580.

Zeitler also starred on the Bennett American Legion baseball team that in 1 949 lost to Timon, two games to one, for the Erie County championship. Timon went on to win the New York State title.

Following his graduation in 1 950, Zeitler was faced with a tough decision. He was offered four-year athletic scholarships to Colgate and Michigan State. He choose Michigan State, where he played three seasons as a third baseman in an era before freshmen were allowed to play varsity. As captain in his senior year, he led the Spartans to the Big Ten championship and a berth in the College World Series. He hit .385 in the CWS and signed to play professionally in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system.

He did two things with the bonus money he received from the Tigers. He bought his mother a fur coat and his father a new car. Zeitler played two seasons of pro baseball and another five of semi-pro with Simon Pures of the Buffalo Muny League. He was recognized for his excellent play with Simons by being named to the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame.

After his pro and amateur baseball career, Zeitler entered the priesthood. Today, he is pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Lakeview and recently directed the building of a new $4 million church.