#29 Ted Kluszewski
Progress: 1st of this card
280 of 407 68.8% complete
How acquired: $10.50 on eBay
Ted Kluszewski was a name a recognized, but didn't know much about him beyond that. My impression was that he was probably pretty good, maybe made an All-Star team or two. I own a few of his later cards and thought of him mostly as the steakhead who didn't wear sleeves (google his cards if you don't know what I'm talking about).
After actually taking the time to look up his stats, I take it all back. Ted doesn't have to wear sleeves if he doesn't want to. He had a four year run from 1953 to 1956 that could be easily mistaken for the likes of Gherig, Mays, and Aaron. His best season in 1954, saw him lead the league in both home runs (49) and RBI's (141), and miss out on winning the triple crown by only hitting .326. Willie Mays would win the batting crown that year batting .341, and also edged out Kluszewski in MVP voting. Ted finished 2nd with a good number of first place votes. During that four year run, Kluszewski hit at least .300 each year and drove in 100 RBI's each season. 1956 was the only season he didn't hit at least 40 home runs, when he hit a "meager" 35 dingers. He also had more home runs thank strike outs in each of those four seasons. Who is this guy?
"Big Klu" would see his career slowly be chipped away at by injuries, but in his prime, his numbers can stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone in the game's history and not feel out of place. In the 1970's, he served as hitting coach under Sparky Anderson with the great Cincinnati Reds teams of the era. He died of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 63. The New York Times ran a very nice obituary for "Big Klu" upon his passing.
Stats: 15 seasons, 4x All-Star, .298 avg., 1,766 hits, 279 home runs, 1,078 RBI's, only 365 strike-outs, as a White Sox hit 3 home runs in a 6 game World Series loss to the Dodgers in 1959.
Best Hall of Fame Showing: 14.4% 1977 (exhausted all 15 years of eligibility on the ballot)