he had stayed with football, a professional career on the gridiron
undoubtedly would have been in the offing.
he had decided to stay with basketball, there would have been fewer
stronger men fighting for rebounds.
But instead, Ted Kluszewski went for baseball and wound up one of the
Cincinnati Reds greatest sluggers and a home-run hitter deluxe.
left-handed hitter whose playing weight was near 240 pounds, Kluszewski
was said to have the strength to hit a baseball out of any park in
America including Yellowstone.
''The first man to be killed by a batted ball will be an innocent
stranger. He'll be minding his business, walking along Western Avenue behind Crosley Field. He'll be hit by a ball that was driven out
of the park by Kluszewski," said National League umpire Larry Goetz.
He was considered the strongest man in baseball during the early and
mid-1950s. He made a joke out of the 342-foot home-run barrier at Crosley Field. In 1954, when Kluszewski hit 49 home runs to lead rhe
major leagues and set a team record, 34 of them soared over the right
field fence at
When talking about the strongest players in the game, Leo Durocher,
manager of the New York Giants in the early 1950s, mentioned Gil Hodges
"What about Kluszewski?" he was asked. "Kluszewski," Durocher retorted. ''I'm
talking about human beings."
When Kluszewski was at his best, he was as feared a hitter as Ted
Williams, Stan Musial or other great ones.
do by brute strength," Kluszewski once explained, "what they do by
finesse. I can hit a ball on the handle and give it a ride. Williams
always gets the solid part of his bat on the ball. When a ball is pitched to me, I start my action early. That's why I look so
bad when I'm fooled. Those wrist hitters can stop their action and
resume. But once I start to swing, I'm dead."
Baseball was Kluszewski's third love in high school in Argos, Illinois.
Football came first, then basketball.
went to Indiana University on a football scholarship and made all-Big
Ten his sophomore year, helping the Hoosiers win the conference
was in Bloomington, Indiana, home of IU, where the Reds first noticed
the big first baseman. In order to avoid spring football practice,
Kluszewski went out for the baseball team.
During the World War II years the Reds trained on the Indiana campus.
Head groundskeeper Lenny Schwab first spotted this gentle giant who
batted .429 as a Big Ten sophomore.
The Reds were reluctant to sign Kluszewski and end his college career
prematurely since Indiana
had loaned its facilities to the Reds for spring training. So an
agreement was struck: When Klu wanted to turn professional, the Reds
would then enter the bidding. That decision came in 1946 and Kluszewski
became an instant sensation in the Cincinnati farm system. He batted
.325 at Columbia, South Carolina, and .377 the next year at Memphis. He
joined the Reds late that year and stayed with them until he was traded
after the 1957 season.