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Ted Kluszewski

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Ted Kluszewski
Tedkluszewski
First base
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB Debut
April 18, 1947 for the Cincinnati Reds
Final game
October 1, 1961 for the Los Angeles Angels
Career Statistics
Batting average     .298
Hits     1766
Stolen bases     20
Teams
Career Highlights and Awards

Theodore Bernard (Big Klu) Kluszewski (born September 10, 1924 — died March 29, 1988), was a Major League first baseman from 1947 to 1961. He batted and threw left-handed.

CareerEdit

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

Soon after the 6'-2" (1.89 m), 240-pound (108.8 kg) Ted Kluszewski joined the Reds, however, 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.

Ted Kluszewski also became notorious for his strength. When Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher was once asked by a writer to name five of the strongest players in baseball, he complied. However, when the writer pointed out that he'd left Ted Kluszewski off the list, Durocher huffed and said: "Kluszewski? I'm talking about human beings!"

Ted Kluszewski was selected as an All-Star in four seasons, 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).

Kluszewski 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 RBI's in 1954. He also hit .300 or better eight times. Kluszewski also led National League first basemen in fielding percentage five straight years, a major league record. Kluszewski was one of three National League players to hit 40 or more homers each year from 1953-1955, along with Eddie Mathews and Duke Snider. Snider repeated in 1956 and 1957 for a 5-year streak. He was one of 3 NL players to have a 140+ rbi season in the 1950's, along with Roy Campanella and Ernie Banks.

However, injuries began taking their toll; Kluszewski was limited to playing just four full seasons in his fifteen-year career. Ted Kluszewski spent his last four seasons switching teams. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates before the 1958 season, and in August 1959 he was sent to the Chicago White Sox to give the team added punch. They eventually won the American League pennant and faced the National League champs, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the World Series. In the first game at Chicago's Comiskey Park, Kluszewski slugged two home runs and drove in five in an 11-0 rout of the Dodgers. However, the Dodgers would win the next four game and take the series with strong pitching that neutralized the White Sox' hitters — except for Ted Kluszewski, who hit .391 with three home runs and ten RBI's, which tied Gil Hodges' mark set in the same series. About that time, Sox owner Bill Veeck introduced uniforms with players' names on the backs, above the numbers. Veeck deliberately spelled Ted's last name wrong.

When Major League Baseball decided to expand in 1960, Ted Kluszewski was one of the players left unprotected. He was selected by the Los Angeles Angels. Although hampered by back and leg problems, Kluszewski was the undisputed star of the Angels' first game ever, on April 11, 1961 against the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium, belting two home runs off the Orioles' Milt Pappas. Behind right-hander Eli Grba, the Angels defeated the Orioles 7-2. During his final season, Ted Kluszewski hit .243 with 15 home runs and 39 RBI's in 107 games.

Post-retirement, Ted Kluszewski was a hitting coach, most notably under Sparky Anderson with the Cincinnati Reds during their outstanding teams in the early and mid 1970's, which saw them win World Series championships in 1975 and 1976. 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. Kluszewski retired afterward.

Ted Kluszewski died on March 29, 1988 in Cincinnati at age 63. His #18 was retired by the Reds on July 18, 1998 before a game against the visiting San Diego Padres at Cinergy Field. His widow, the former Eleanor Guckel, a 5'-2" (1.58 m), a former softball pitcher (and, like her late husband, a southpaw), threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Reds lost 2-1.

HighlightsEdit

HonorsEdit

  • Ted Kluszewski is prominently mentioned in the first line of the chorus to Terry Cashman's 1981 song "Talkin' Baseball", a musical tribute to baseball.
  • In an article in 1976 in Esquire magazine, sportswriter Harry Stein published an "All Time All-Star Argument Starter," consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Kluszewski was the first baseman on Stein's Polish team.

See alsoEdit

SourcesEdit

Preceded by:
Eddie Mathews
National League Home Run Champion
1954
Succeeded by:
Willie Mays
Preceded by:
Roy Campanella
National League RBI Champion
1954
Succeeded by:
Duke Snider

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