Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Ted Kluszewksi Dies
Nicknamed "Big Klu" in part because "Kluszewski" doesn't exactly float off the tongue, but more because he was big. Story has it that the Reds began wearing vests because Big Klu found his arms were too big to fit in the sleeves and just cut them off. That strikes me as a trifle apocryphal, but then, having taken a look at the man, those are some big arms so if that's the story he likes, that's the story I like.
His arms are actually what got Kluszewski signed, he was working as a grounds keeper for the team as a young man when someone spotted him--or his muscles anyway--and suggested perhaps the Reds take a shot. (Kluszewski was a good athlete all-around, he had also been the tight end on Indiana's 1945 Big Ten Championship team.) It turned out to be a good move, Big Klu was a great power hitter, hitting forty home runs 1953-1955, including 49 in the middle year of that run. He also struck out an extremely low amount for a power hitter, the last home-run seasons with fewer than forty strikeouts all belong to him. Klu did have his detractors, namely noted humanitarian Rogers Hornsby who during his tenure with the Reds repeatedly implored the team to trade "the big lazy Polack." Said Polack hit forty home runs for Hornsby in 1953, in spite of his manager's frequent attempts to ship him off for Earl Torgeson who hit eleven that year. Smooth move, Rodg.
Despite playing fewer than 1400 games for the club, Kluszewski still ranks in the top five all-time in Reds' home runs and slugging, and in the top ten for RBIs and total bases. He is today honored with a statue outside of the Great American Ballpark.