Homage to Big Klu: Cincinnati Reds First-Baseman Ted Kluszewski
Big Klu Last to Hit 40 or more Home Runs and Strike Out 40 times or Less in Season
by Robb Hoff
December 30, 2012
Now that the end of the world hasn't come courtesy of Mayan apocalypse and Christmas is past, the time comes to reflect upon the New Year.
Unless of course you're like me and the New Year doesn't really start until the over-hyped, overpaid Los Angeles Angels show up at Great American Ballpark to face the Cincinnati Reds for the start of another Major League Baseball season.
One of the more iconic Reds players of all-time actually finished his career with the Angels in the franchise's inaugural season 52 years ago.
That would be the Big Klu, one Ted Kluszewski, who was one of the most dominant players of the 1950's.
Not only was Big Klu a slugger, he was a contact hitter who rarely struck out. In fact, he is one of only five players ever to hit 40 or more home runs in a season and strike out 40 or fewer times in that season. The others who accomplished the feat were fair ballplayers in their own right -- Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mel Ott and Johnny Mize. This foursome managed to accomplish the feat once each.
But Kluszewski did it three years in a row -- 1953, 1954 and 1955. No player has managed to turn in such a season since then, although steroids-era slugger Barry Bonds came close in 2004 with 45 home runs and just 41 strike outs.
Kluszewski played 11 years for the Reds and became one of the more recognizable players of the 1950s not only because of his success at the plate but also because of his presence -- he played completely sleeveless.
The intimidating figure that Big Klu posed was just part of his legacy in the 1950's. He was also a force in the field. Kluszewski was the last first baseman (and only one of two since 1907) to lead his league in fielding percentage at first base for five consecutive years (1951-55).
The current first baseman for the Reds, Joey Votto, occasionally talks about the impact that Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams had upon his own hitting approach. Perhaps Votto should also take a look at Big Klu for a little extra guidance, especially since Kluszewski is also a left-handed hitter and a fellow first baseman.
If Votto did seek to learn from Kluszewski, he wouldn't be the first to do so because Big Klu was also known to many fans as the hitting instructor for the Reds during the era of the Big Red Machine.
Kluszewski died in 1988, but his figure is chiseled like his physique into the very core of Cincinnati Reds baseball. Today, visitors to Great American Ballpark will notice the life-sized, in-action statues of Crosley Terrace that adorns the entrance to the park. You'll see Joe Nuxhall pitching to Frank Robinson with Ernie Lomabrdi behind the plate.......and off to the side in the on-deck circle, you'll see a hitter in sleeveless jersey with two bats resting on his shoulder, waiting for his turn at bat.
That would be Ted Kluszewski.
Ted Kluszewski Stats
- Ted Kluszewski Statistics and History - Baseball-Reference.com
Career: 279 HR, .298 BA, 1028 RBI, 1B, 4xAllStar, Reds/Redlegs/... 1947-1961, b:L/t:L, 1x HR Leader, born in IL 1924, died 1988, 'Big Klu'