March 25, 1961 |
West Palm Beach, Florida
|July 23, 1984, for the Texas Rangers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 14, 1992, for the Chicago Cubs|
|Runs batted in||73|
The son of the late American League pitcher and umpire Bill Kunkel, after receiving All-American honors as a shortstop, he was chosen in the first round (3rd overall) of the 1983 Major League Baseball Draft out of Rider University.
Growing up in Leonardo, New Jersey, Kunkel was an all-around athlete who participated in soccer, basketball and baseball during his high school years at Middletown High School South in New Jersey. Selected #74 of the top 100 Jersey Shore athletes of the millennium by the Asbury Park Press in 1999.
Kunkel reached the big leagues quickly, but never developed into a full-time player. The Rangers gave him the opportunity to win the starting shortstop position, but he was always thwarted by his hitting stats and obstacles such as Curtis Wilkerson, Scott Fletcher, Fred Manrique, Gary Green, and Jeff Huson.
Plagued with numerous potential career-ending injuries, Kunkel worked hard to rehabilitate himself to finish an 11-year professional baseball career with 5½ years in the major leagues.
A versatile player with the ability to play 8 of the 9 positions on the field he actually pitched three times in mop-up stints.
His son, of same name, is the bullpen catcher for the Detroit Tigers.
Kunkel made his major league debut against the defending world champion Baltimore Orioles at Arlington Stadium on Monday, July 23, 1984. Against O's ace Mike Boddicker, a 20-game winner that season, Kunkel recorded three hits and stole second base. Nevertheless, the Rangers lost the game 9 to 5.
Kunkel spent the rest of the season alternating with Curtis Wilkerson, but was never able to duplicate the success of his first game. He concluded 1984 with 3 home runs, 7 runs batted in, and a .204 average in 50 games and 142 at-bats.
Time in the minors
After struggling during spring training in 1985, Kunkel found little playing time with the Rangers over the next four seasons. He spent most of his time with the Oklahoma City 89ers of the Triple-A American Association and was recalled to the majors only due to other players being hurt or the rosters expanding in September.
In 1989 Kunkel recorded his best season, and more playing time opened for him due to the trade of Scott Fletcher to the Chicago White Sox. He responded by hitting a career-high .270 with 8 home runs and 29 RBI in 108 games. The success was short-lived, and by 1990 he was back to his previous role as a reserve player.
In 1992, the Chicago Cubs gave Kunkel his last shot in the majors. He assumed the role as a utility player, receiving very limited playing time behind Ryne Sandberg and Shawon Dunston. Jeff concluded his short stay with the Cubs hitting .138 in 29 at-bats and never played in the big leagues again.
- Retrosheet. Kunkel's career stats
- Charlton, James; Shatzkin, Mike; Holtje, Stephen (1990). The Ballplayers: baseball's ultimate biographical reference. New York: Arbor House/William Morrow. p. 592. ISBN 0-87795-984-6.
- Alfano, Peter. "PLAYERS; ENDURING TRIPLE A AND A PAINFUL LOSS", The New York Times, June 11, 1985. Accessed February 3, 2008. "He joked about the bonus that Jeff would sign, comparing it to his own miserly wages as a ballplayer. He enjoyed answering the telephone at the family's home in Leonardo, N.J., where scouts would call regularly."
- Jeff Kunkel, The Baseball Cube. Accessed February 3, 2008.
- Orioles vs. Rangers July 23, 1984 box score
- 1987 Texas Rangers media guide
- 1989 Texas Rangers media guide
- 1990 Texas Rangers media guide
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference