OBSERVATIONS: Big Klu hit for power without striking out

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave wondering if I should shovel snow or smoke a Montecristo White Label Churchill in my La-Z-Boy. Guess which one won.

—His number 18 is retired and there is a statue of Ted Kluszewski at Great American Ball Park, his bulging biceps clearly displayed.

It is a famous story that he couldn’t fit his 15-inch biceps into the sleeves of his Cincinnati Reds uniform so he cut them off. Certainly, those massive guns displayed in the batter’s box intimidated many pitchers.

Big Klu was Big Baby — 14 pounds at birth. But he was kind and quiet, known as The Gentle Giant. And he was charismatic, even if he didn’t know what it meant.

“I’m not sure what the hell charisma is, but I get the feeling it’s Willie Mays,” Klu once said.
How good was Ted Kluszewski with a bat? Sneaking a pitch past him was like trying to sneak a hot dog past Joey Chestnut.

Only five players in MLB history hit 40 home runs and struck out 40 or less times in a season. And Big Klu did it three years in a row.

In 1953 he hit 40 homers and struck out 34 times. In 1954 it was 49-35 and in 1955 it was 47-40.

Kluszewski was the hitting instructor for The Big Red Machine and it was awesome to stand next to him at the batting cage listening to him give tips to Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster, Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey and Cesar Geronimo.

Mostly with those guys he said, “Good, great, good, great.”

Kluszewski played all three major sports at Indiana University — football, basketball and baseball. He thought football was safer than basketball. And why is that?

This was written in 1944 by legendary Chicago sports writer Arch Ward, founder of the All-Star game:

“Ted Kluszewski, a 215-pound end at Indiana University, finds football a safer game than basketball. Ted started every game for the Hoosiers’ football team and came through without a scratch. But he fell off the bench in his first basketball game and suffered injuries that will keep him out several weeks.”

No doubt that the floor he fell upon suffered major injuries.

—QUOTE: From Cincinnati Reds first baseman Ted Kluszewski: “How hard is hitting? You ever walk into a pitch-black room full of furniture that you’ve never been in before and try to walk through it without bumping into anything? Well, it’s harder than that.” (Big Klu, though, tossed all the furniture aside and hit for power and for average.)

—Everybody knows the 1919 World Series was fixed, the Chicago Black Sox tanking to the Cincinnati Reds.

Did you know, though, there is evidence that the Chicago Cubs lost the 1918 World Series to the Boston Red Sox on purpose.

Swede Risberg, one of the 1919 Black Sox who was one of the players accused of fixing the 1919 World Series, said the Black Sox got the idea after riding a train with the Cubs (both teams were en route to New York) and hearing the some of the Cubs talk about how easy it was to fix the 1918 World Series.

From Paul Dickson’s book on Bill Veeck about the 1918 Series: “The Cubs were picked off bases three times, including twice in the deciding Game Six. The game was lost, 2-1, on a two-run error by Cubs right fielder Max Flack. Game Four was tied, 2-2, in the eighth inning when Cubs pitcher Phil Douglas gave up a single, followed by a passed ball, followed by an errant throw by Douglas on a bunt that allowed the winning run to score.”

Writers at the time questioned the integrity of the ’18 Series, but nothing ever came of it.

—Bill Veeck owned the Cleveland Indians in 1947 and integrated the American League by signing black outfielder Larry Doby just months after Jackie Robinson was signed by the Dodgers. As the owner of the St. Louis Browns he sent a midget, Eddie Gaedel, up to bat. As owner of the Chicago White Sox, he staged a burn disco records night that ended up in a riot.

Yes, Bill Veeck was a chain-smoking maverick. He had a wooden peg leg and installed an ash tray that pulled out of the leg. One time he fell and his wooden let came off. Somebody asked if they should call a doctor. and Veeck said, “No, call a carpenter.”

—MLB.com picked the Top Ten major league first basemen for 2021 and, the envelope please. . .Freddie Freeman, Jose Abreu, Brandon Belt, Paul Goldschmidt, Max Muncey, Matt Olson, Luke Voit, Pete Alonso, Rhys Hoskins, Anthony Rizzo.

Notice a name missing? Yep, Joey Votto. And they list five honorable mentions. Still no Joey Votto. How could they?

—QUOTE: From comedian Red Buttons: “Joe Torre switched from catcher to first base because he didn’t want to go through life known as Chicken Catcher Torre.” (Joey Votto switched from catcher to first base but there was nothing funny about it.)

—Only 11 per cent of the people who walk into a casino walk out with as much money as when they walked in. And those who walk out with winnings rarely win more than $150.

Of course, we all believe we’ll be one of the 11 percenters and we’ll need a Brinks truck to get us home.

—QUOTE: From comedian Artie Lange: “You know you have a gambling problem when it’s 4 A.M. at the Mirage Sports Book and you’re walking around going, ‘Hey you get the lacrosse scores?’”

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