Homer Happy: Ted Kluszewski
Awesome strength made Ted Kluszewski a slugging star in the National League for more than a decade.
His barrel biceps and short sleeves were his trademarks, as were the tape-measure home runs he sprayed around National League parks through most of the 1950s. By the time baseball entered the 1960s, age and injuries had taken their toll on Kluszewski, but he remained a dangerous power hitter with his transition to the American League.
Kluszewski was signed by the Cincinnati Reds out of college in 1946. He needed only two seasons of minor league ball, batting .352 in 1946 and .377 in 1947.
Klu made the Reds’ roster in 1948 and won the everyday first base position by the end of that summer. He hit only a total of 20 home runs in his first two major league seasons, but the strength started to kick in by 1950, when he hit 25 home runs with 111 runs batted in. He blasted 40 home runs in 1954, 49 (best in the majors) in 1955, and 47 in 1956. He came close to a Triple Crown in 1955, leading the majors in RBIs (141) as well as home runs. His .326 batting average was fifth-best in the league. From 1953 through 1956, Kluszewski averaged 43 home runs and 116 RBIs.
He was never that player again, as back and leg injuries limited him to an average of 85 games per season from 1957 through 1960. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1958 and, in August of the 1959 season, was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Kluszewski played a major role in helping the White Sox clinch the 1959 American League pennant. In 31 games, he collected 30 hits, batting .297 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. In the 1959 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he batted .391 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in.
He batted .293 as a part-time player for the White Sox in 1960, and was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 1960 expansion draft. Kluszewski batted .243 for the Angels in 1961, with 15 home runs and 39 RBIs. He retired after that season with a .298 career batting average and 279 home runs. He was an All-Star four times while playing for Cincinnati.