Ted Kluszewski

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Ted Kluszewski
Ted Kluszewski 1954.png
Kluszewski in 1954.
First baseman
Born: (1924-09-10)September 10, 1924
Argo, Illinois
Died: March 29, 1988(1988-03-29) (aged 63)
Cincinnati, Ohio
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
April 18, 1947 for the Cincinnati Reds
Last MLB appearance
October 1, 1961 for the Los Angeles Angels
Career statistics
Batting average .298
Home runs 279
Runs batted in 1,028
Teams

As player

As coach

Career highlights and awards

Theodore Bernard "Big Klu" Kluszewski (September 10, 1924 – March 29, 1988) was an American professional baseball player who spent most of his Major League Baseball (MLB) career as a first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds. In 1959, his power hitting after his trade from the Pittsburg Pirates to the Chicago White Sox late in the season helped the "Go-Go White Sox" clinch the American League pennant. He was a National League (NL) All-Star four times. In 1962, he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

Early life and professional career[edit]

Ted Kluszewski was born in Argo, Illinois and was of Polish descent. He graduated from Argo Community High School and was discovered at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where he played football as well as baseball.

Minor League Baseball[edit]

Due to wartime travel restrictions, the Cincinnati Reds, who normally held spring training in Tampa, Florida, were forced to train at Indiana University from 1943 to 1945. Kluszewski, then a student at the university, drew the attention of Reds' groundskeeper Matty Schwab. Schwab saw Kluszewski hitting balls over an embankment near the baseball diamond that none of the Reds players was able to get near. Cincinnati Reds scouts were sufficiently impressed, but Kluszewski, who was also a standout tight end on the Hoosier football squad, did not immediately sign, because he didn't want to endanger his collegiate football eligibility. Instead, he signed after he graduated in 1946. After batting .325 and .377 in two minor league seasons, he was called up to Cincinnati in 1947 and became the Reds' starting first baseman at the end of 1948.

Kluszewski showing his famous short sleeves

Major League Baseball[edit]

Cincinnati Reds / Cincinnati Redlegs (1954–1957)[edit]

Soon after the 6'-2" (1.89 m), 240-pound (108.8 kg) Ted Kluszewski joined the Reds in 1947, he cut off the sleeves of his uniform, much to the chagrin of the Reds front office. He did it because the tight sleeves constricted his large biceps and shoulders and interfered with his swing. "They got pretty upset, but it was either that or change my swing — and I wasn't about to change my swing", said Kluszewski. Kluszewski became notorious for his strength; Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher was asked to name five of the strongest players in baseball, he complied. When it was pointed out that he'd left Ted Kluszewski off his list, Durocher said: "Kluszewski? I'm talking about human beings!"

Kluszewski was named to the National League All-Star roster 1953 through 1956, and was a career .298 hitter with 279 home runs and 1028 RBI in 1718 games. In ten of his fifteen seasons, Kluszewski walked (492) more often than he struck out (365). In 1955, he hit 47 homers while striking out only 40 times. No player since him has hit 40 homers and struck out 40 or fewer times in the same season (Barry Bonds missed duplicating this feat by one strikeout in 2004).

"Big Klu" enjoyed his most productive years from 1953 through 1956, with home run totals of 40, 49, 47 and 35 while driving in over 100 baserunners in each, including a league-leading 141 RBIs in 1954. He also hit .300 or better eight times. Kluszewski also led National League first basemen in fielding percentage five straight years (1951–1955), a major league record.

However, injuries began taking their toll; Kluszewski was limited to playing just four full seasons in his fifteen-year career and would eventually spend his last four seasons as a part-time player.

Pittsburgh Pirates (1958–1959)[edit]

He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates before the 1958 season. In 1958, he played in 100 games and hit .292 with 88 hits and 37 RBIs. In 1959, he played in 60 games for the Pirates before he was traded in August to the Chicago White Sox who were in a close pennant race.

Chicago White Sox (1959–1960)[edit]

On August 25, 1959, his trade for two players gave Al Lopez's first place White Sox team the much needed additional home run power to help win the American League Pennant. The White Sox faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. In the first game at Chicago's Comiskey Park, Kluszewski, who had grown up in the Chicago area, hit two home runs and drove in five in an 11–0 rout of the Dodgers. However, the Dodgers would win the next four out of five games to win the series with pitching that neutralized the White Sox, except for Kluszewski, who hit .391 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in.

Automobile mogul Jim Moran offered a free car to any White Sox player who hit a home run in that World Series. As he recalled in an Oct. 21, 2005 interview with Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune, Moran ended up giving Kluszewski three original 1960 Ford Falcons.

During that '59 season, Sox owner Bill Veeck introduced, for the first time in the major leagues, a team uniform with the players' names on the backs of their jerseys. During a road trip to New York, Ted Kluszewski became the first player to appear in a game with his name misspelled, with a backwards "z" and an "x" instead of the second "k".[1]

When Major League Baseball expanded in 1960, Kluszewski was left unprotected in the expansion draft and selected by the Los Angeles Angels.

Los Angeles Angels (1961)[edit]

In 1961, Kluszewski played his final season hampered by back and leg problems. On April 11, the season's opening day and playing against the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium, he belted two home runs for the Angels off of Milt Pappas as the Angels defeated the Orioles 7-2. He finished the season hitting .243 with 15 home runs and 39 RBIs in 107 games.

Post playing career and death[edit]

After retiring as a player, Kluszewski was a hitting coach under Sparky Anderson with the Cincinnati Reds during their outstanding teams in the 1970s. In 1979, he became the Reds' minor league hitting instructor, a position he held until 1986, when he suffered a massive heart attack and underwent emergency bypass surgery. He retired afterward. Kluszewski died on March 29, 1988 in Cincinnati at age 63.

MLB awards, achievements, and records[edit]

Awards[edit]

  • All-Star (National League): 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956

Achievements[edit]

  • National League leader in home runs (1954)
  • National League leader in RBIs (1954)
  • National League leader in hits (1955)
  • National league leader in putouts and putouts as first baseman (1951, 1955)
  • National League leader in fielding average as first baseman (1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955)
  • American League pennant team (1959)

Records[edit]

  • Major League: 3 home runs by 3 team members in single game, in a single season (1956):

1950: Tommy Brown, Roy Campanella, and Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers
1956: Gus Bell, Ted Kluszewski, and Bob Thurman of the Cincinnati Reds
1987: Joe Carter, Brook Jacoby, and Cory Snyder of the Cleveland Indians

  • National League: Led 5-times in Fielding average as first baseman (1951-1955)
  • National League: 17 consecutive games scoring runs (1955)

Honors and recognitions[edit]

RedsRetired18.png
Ted Kluszewski's number 18 was retired by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998.

1962: Ted Kluszewski is inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

1974: Ted Kluszewski was inducted into the National Polish- American Sports Hall of Fame[2]

1976: Esquire magazine article by sportswriter Harry Stein featured an "ALL Time All-Star Argument Starter" consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Kluszweski was the first baseman on Stein's Polish team.

1981: "Ted Kluszewski" is in first line of the chorus to Terry Cashman's song, "Talkin' Baseball", a musical tribute to baseball.

1998: On July 18, Kluszewski's number 18 was retired by the Cincinnati Reds at a pregame ceremony at Cinergy Field. His widow, Elenor Guckel, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds.

2003: Great American Ball Park, the home of the Cincinnati Reds, opened on March 31. Before the inaugural game, the Reds dedicated a bronze statue of Kluszewski on the Crosley Terrace area outside the main gate. Statues of Crosley Field era stars Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall, and Frank Robinson were erected later. The statues were sculpted by Cincinnati artist Tom Tsuchiya.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Baseball Library
  • Baseball Reference
  • Cincinnati's Crosley Field: The Illustrated History of a Classic Ballpark by Greg Rhodes and John Erardi, 1995, Road West Publishing

References[edit]