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Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield, Massachusetts is the birthplace of Lithuania's national sport (basketball); the sport was invented by Dr. James Naismith in the local college. As such the city hosts the massive ball-shaped Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Among the many inductees of this ball-shaped building, there is also a Lithuanian Arvydas Sabonis (2011), widely regarded to be the nation's best-ever basketball player, in addition to being the first European to be selected in NBA draft (as Lithuania was still occupied by the Soviet Union, Sabonis was precluded from leaving for several years). Šarūnas Marčiulionis, also a former NBA star, is another Lithuanian inductee (since 2014).

The interior of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with the faces of all the inductees

The interior of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with the faces of all the inductees

Sabonis face at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Sabonis face at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

As every inductee, both Sabonis and Marčiulionis have their faces on the „dome“ of the ball-shaped building. Their careers are briefly described in the 3rd-floor gallery where all inductees are listed. In addition, Marčiulionis‘s jersey is hanging among the jerseys of the world‘s best point guards, while Sabonis‘s quotation is next to the main entrance to the hall (a rather simple one: „It‘s a dream of every player to play in the NBA“). Only a few players are honored this way, among them Wilt Chamberlain and other main stars.

Jersey of Šarūnas Marčiulionis at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Jersey of Šarūnas Marčiulionis at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

In general, Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame offers many activities beyond the Lithuanian-related things. One may, for example, watch short films about the basketball history (including at least one where Sabonis is shown), try to comment a basketball game and listen to one‘s record, compare one‘s height and arms length to that of the various basketball players and so on. As the Hall is in America, NBA receives most of the attention, yet the international basketball also gets some.

By the way, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has another Lithuania-born inductee: Sara Berenson Abbot (1868-1954), who is a Lithuania-born Jewess (inducted in 1984). She is called the „Mother of women basketball“ as she has „updated“ the Naismith‘s game rules for women (at the time, men and women played according to greatly different rules, with Abbot‘s rules greatly limiting moving of the players). Abbot has been relatively unknown in Lithuania, however, as she did her inventions in the USA and did not participate in the Lithuanian activities there (she emigrated with her parents when she was just 7 years old and effectively cut any ties with Lithuania).

Description of Senda Abbot at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Description of Senda Abbot at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Springfield area also had a Lithuanian church: St. Casimir in Westfield (38 Parkside Av, construction started on 1917). Since its closure in 2003, it has been sold to the school system and used as a school for kids with ADHD. Even that school was closed in several years, and the church is now used as a warehouse of the school system. If you look through the glass of the main entrance, you may still catch a glimpse of surviving Lithuanian stained glass windows (with Lithuanian inscriptions) inside. Most of the interior is destroyed, however, and filled with various things; a statue of a saint outside is also removed.

Westfield St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Westfield St. Casimir Lithuanian church

St. Casimir name remained however as the parish was unified with St. Peter (Slovak) to form St. Peter's/St. Casimir's parish. The congregation now prays at the former Slovak church, however (24 State Street).

West of Springfield lies Stockbridge, notable for its Divine Mercy shrine. Divine Mercy is a Catholic tradition that originates in Lithuania. In addition to that, the shrine is led by Marianite priests who are inspired by the Lithuanian blessed Jurgis Matulaitis. His images, as well as those of Our Lady of Vilnius, are also prominent in the church there.

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